Writing this for the benefit of my American friends who may a little curious about Nigel Farage, the politician who has recently found himself a gig on Fox News as the self-styled ‘voice of the British people’. I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but forewarned is to be forearmed. Unfortunately, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more of our Nigel, to the extent that you may actually find yourself feeling affection and nostalgia for Piers Morgan. I know this may seem hard to believe, but trust me. They said no one would vote for Donald Trump and look how well that prediction turned out.
Nigel Farage is the former leader of the UK Independence Party – or Ukip for short. Although you might think the clue is in the name, it’s worth pointing out that Britain has not been subjugated by foreign invaders since 1066.
The title of this post, a reference to the sublime XTC and their song ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ is a bit obvious but I couldn’t resist given that it contains a couple of lines that distill the essence of Nigelness.
“Nigel is not outspoken
But he likes to speak”
You see, if you listen to the man himself, Nigel Farage is not outspoken. Like so many populists through the ages, he is just saying the things that ordinary people want to say, but feel they somehow can’t. And with that self-appointed mandate, Nigel likes to speak. God, how Nigel likes to speak. Personally, I find it hard to listen to Nigel speak for very long. Fifteen seconds is normally about my threshold. I think it’s something to do with his tone of voice. It’s the kind of tone that feels that everything it disagrees with is proof that something has “gone mad”. The kind of people this tone of voice appeals most are those who are deeply confused by e-passport gates.
Movers and shakers
Some people think Nigel is a major political figure. Others just find him an annoying self-publicist with a genius for manipulating the media and scaring the Over 65’s into thinking that Britain is about to be annexed by Belgium. Actually, not Belgium. Nigel doesn’t like Belgium, describing it during one EU Parliamentary debate as “pretty much a non country”.
One of Nigel’s pet crusades is integration, although for most of his followers, this wouldn’t so much mean assimilating diversity and difference as crushing it with Borg-like ruthlessness wherever it might appear. He believes it’s imperative for people to learn languages in order to properly integrate into a country. But in spite of spending a great deal of time in Belgium for almost twenty years as a member of the European Parliament, Mr. Farage doesn’t speak Flemish although he will admit to knowing his way around a menu in French. Perhaps if Nigel spoke better French or Flemish, he might understand why Belgium is a country, situated between France and the Netherlands.
Currently, his Ukip party has one, solitary Member of Parliament out of the 650 MP’s in the House of Commons. Along with the Green Party, that makes them the least significant in terms of voting power in the chamber.
It’s interesting to compare these two parliamentary groups. In representative terms, the British Greens, like Ukip, are a minor political party with just one MP. They too have a single issue, albeit the more pressing and urgent matter of preventing environmental catastrophe versus liberating the UK from the tyranny of straight bananas.
No one from the Green Party has ever been permitted to use their platform to deliver a running commentary on how the country should be governed. In 2017, voting Green is still regarded as a bit of a hippyish indulgence as opposed to being a rational thing to do in the face of humanity’s suicidal obsession with fossil fuels.
In comparison to Green issues being something the right wing press make fun of on slow news days, Nigel Farage and an assorted cast of minor Ukip politicos are never off the airwaves or the prominent pages of newspapers and web sites demanding this, that and the other. It sometimes feels like a parish council in some rural backwater has been co-opted to the Cabinet.
But as far as climate change goes, in Nigel’s own words, he “doesn’t have a clue whether climate change is being driven by carbon dioxide emissions.” Nevertheless, ignorance has never stopped him from expressing his opinions and global warming is no different. Although the UK is in a strong position to be competitive in renewable energy technology (estimates put the market opportunity at between £16 and £21 billion to 2020), Nigel thinks that “wind energy is the biggest collective economic insanity I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve never seen anything more stupid, more illogical, or more irrational.” This seems odd given that post-Brexit, we are going to need every competitive advantage we can find.
Judge a man by his company
Breitbart has described Farage as the greatest British politician since Margaret Thatcher. But before taking this at face value, consider that in 2006, the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, described Ukip supporters as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.
Nigel is always keen to emphasise his credentials as a man of the people. Even when he is posing for photographs in front of the solid gold elevator of Trump Towers, this privately educated City commodity broker never loses his affinity and empathy for the working man. Nigel Farage, everyman, fighting wealth and privilege wherever he may find it!
A great example of Nigel’s common touch was the gala held in his honour at the Ritz Hotel in London last December. What better way to give the Establishment a bloody nose on behalf of the people than a dinner for 120 guests at one of London’s most exclusive hotels. Nigel’s fanfare for the common man was paid for by a few mates having a whip round.
When Nigel’s friends dip in, however, their largesse extends to a bit more than a few pints and a Chicken Bhuna after five-a-side football night. Firstly, there’s the reclusive Barclay brothers, who own both the Ritz and an island in the English Channel. They also own the Brixit-supporting ‘Daily Telegraph’, a newspaper beloved of retired colonels everywhere.
Then there was Lord Pearson, another Ukip politician. You might not have heard of him but in 2009, it was reported that he had claimed more than £115,000 in Parliamentary expenses between 2001 and 2007, having designated his estate in Scotland as his main residence. That sounds reasonable – it’s a long way from Scotland to Westminster – until you consider that during the same period Pearson’s £3.7m house in London was nominated as his principal residence for tax purposes, thereby allowing him to sidestep a bill for £275,000 in capital gains tax when he sold the property in 2006.
The other main contributor was Aaron Banks, a multimillionaire businessman who spent $10 million on the Leave campaign and whose name appeared in the Panama Papers. Other friends of Nigel in attendance included Richard Tice, a property developer who co-founded Leave.EU and Jim Mallon, a millionaire businessman based in the Isle of Man, a UK offshore tax haven where the maximum tax rate is just 20% versus 45% in the rest of the UK. With friends like these, who needs MP’s!
Nigel regards the Obamas as “those ghastly people”. Other people he doesn’t particularly like include migrants with HIV. During the British general election campaign of 2015, he opined in a televised debate that 60% of the 7,000 people diagnosed with HIV every year in the UK were born abroad and should have been barred from entering the country. He also doesn’t like Romanians – “Any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door”. Or Syrian refugees. Not withstanding the estimated 3,800 people who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, in Nigel’s opinion “you will find very few people that came into Europe last year would actually qualify as genuine refugees.”
Although there are lots of European and foreign people that Nigel doesn’t like, Germans are okay. Mrs. Farage is a German.
Sticking it to The Man
Nigel has spent the last 17 years leading an anti-EU party in the European Parliament, a thankless task for which he is paid $100,000 per year. Despite choosing to spend almost two decades earning $1 million from an organisation he doesn’t believe in, Nigel used his farewell speech to criticise the other MEP’s, saying.
“I know that virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives, or worked in business, or worked in trade, or indeed ever created a job.”
It was unfortunate, perhaps, that one of the MEP’s pictured holding his head in his hands as Nigel spoke was formerly Lithuania’s most senior heart surgeon. And even more unfortunate that out of 751 MEP’s, Farage has the 747th worst attendance record. It’s one thing not to have a proper job. It’s quite another to be almost the worst person in the world at it.
At the Ritz dinner, Nigel gave a speech complaining “We’re still being run by the career, professional, political class”. That’s perhaps why Nigel allied Ukip with far/alt right minority groups within the EU parliament (think Holocaust deniers and white supremacists) in order to maintain access to approximately $4 million per annum of EU political subsidies. Obviously, you have to take it from the Man to take it to the Man.
During the EU referendum, Nigel was filmed endorsing a campaign slogan (printed on the side of a bus touring the country) that an additional $500,000 per week could be freed up for the UK National Health Service if Britain voted to leave the EU. Two days after the result, however, he claimed that this was something he had never said or expressed support for.
Prior to the vote on the 23rd June, Farage was asked about his intentions in the case of a narrow victory for the Remain camp. He replied
“In a 52-48 referendum, this would be unfinished business by a long way.”
Like most people, he was assuming the Leave campaign would lose the Referendum, but in the end, 52-48 was the outcome in favour of those who wanted Brexit. Surprisingly, Nigel is no longer enthusiastic about such a narrow result being regarded by his opponents as ‘unfinished business’. When the UK’s second highest court ruled that the government of Theresa May needed Parliamentary approval to move forward with Brexit (a cornerstone of the British constitution), Farage shrieked that this was an attempt to “subvert democracy”. British judges, ruling on British law, in British courts, unencumbered by the pernicious influence of Brussels. Wasn’t that what his whole Brexit caboodle was supposed to be about?
As you may be beginning to realise, therefore, Planet Nigel is an irony, modesty and awareness-free zone. He will fit right into Fox News like a small, pudgy hand donning a tanner’s glove.