Nigel Farage's Brexit Party is bad news for the Conservativesby Andrew Anthony
The architect of Brexit continues to stir the pot with appeals to Britons’ base instincts.
With his baggy blazers and bawdy laughter, Farage looks like the secretary of a suburban golf club who has had rather too long a lunch. In other words, he’s easy to underestimate, but difficult to overlook.
For 20 years, he’s been an MEP, one of the handsomely paid representatives in the European Parliament that he derides, and has consistently campaigned for Britain to leave – a well-stuffed turkey who’s spent two decades voting for Christmas. Then he got his wish, Britain voted for Brexit, and he resigned as Ukip leader, though not as an MEP, continuing to pick up his hefty wage and generous expenses.
But with Britain divorced yet refusing to leave the marital home, Farage has once again made a move to obtain his obsolescence. He has recently set up a new party, the Brexit Party, and almost overnight it’s leading the polls for one of the most bizarre elections in living memory – for the European Parliament.
Yes, Britain is participating in an election for an entity that it was supposed to have already left, and the party that is most popular is the one that wants out right now without a deal. And, bear in mind, the only reason the country is in this tortured position in the first place is that the Conservative Party was desperate to snuff out the threat of Farage.
I sat in an auditorium recently in Nottingham, watching Farage whipping his most loyal supporters into a frenzy – almost a health and safety concern given that the majority of them would regard their hero, at 55, as a young man. To say that Brexit Party members are a bunch of grey hairs is to neglect the significant number who have lost their hair.
If they represent Britain’s political future, then it will be a journey into the past, filled with nostalgia for an innocent time that never existed but that grows brighter in fading memories with each passing year. Whereas all the other parties have a multiplicity of policies, the Brexit Party so far has only one: leave.
At the rally, Farage promised that the Brexit Party was going to take part in the next general election, whenever that might be. This is bad news for the Conservatives, but most of all it’s bad news for Britain.
Farage is a friend of Donald Trump, he’s closely linked to a furtive and controversial businessman named Aaron Banks, and because he’s always chuckling, the Brexit Party leader can come across as avuncular or benign. But he is a virtuoso performer on the dog whistle, appealing to the basest instincts without ever quite giving name to them.
This is the terrible, ironic legacy of Cameron’s attempt to neutralise Farage – it’s ended up empowering him far more than either man could have dreamt. And whereas Cameron has gone from view, his bogeyman looms larger by the day.
Andrew Anthony is an Observer feature writer and is married to a New Zealander.
This article was first published in the May 11, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
For New Zealanders, the Cricket World Cup final was a brutal reminder of sport’s great paradox. But there's hope on the horizon.Read more
We may decry the notion, but the hostile use of space is creeping into the plans of various countries.Read more
If US$154 billion to land 12 men on the Moon seems excessive, consider the things we use every day that had their roots in a Nasa lab.Read more
Mike White talks to investigator Tim McKinnel, who says police often turn a blind eye to possible corruption out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.Read more
PM Jacinda Ardern has doubled down on her criticism of Australia's deportation policy as "corrosive", ahead of her meeting with Scott Morrison.Read more
Te Aniwa Hurihanganui looks at the outdated Adoption Act and its impact on Māori who grew up desperate to reconnect.Read more
Women with complications caused by deeply embedded vaginal mesh are being helped by a pioneering surgical technique.Read more
North Auckland farmer Fergus Riley has uncovered many important lessons in caring for his father Peter, who has Alzheimer’s.Read more