A year covering the Brexit Party and its leader.
Last year Nigel Farage was the washed up former leader of UKIP – a disgraced anti-immigration party that had consistently failed to reap any meaningful electoral success.
Firmly on the sideline of politics, the MEP spent his time frothing about the EU and waiting for Brexit to happen. Then, amid concerns that his raison d’etre could be threatened by a second referendum, Farage founded the Brexit Party – and a new wave of his political career began.
In April 2019, Farage revealed his new outfit – co-founded by Catherine Blaiklock – and unveiled his troops – a selection of Brexiteers ready to stand as MEPs with just a month before elections to the European Parliament.
The Brexit Party enjoyed immediate electoral success, and sent 40 Europhobes to work in… Europe. However, Farage’s joy was short-lived. Blaiklock had been forced to resign from the party after sharing anti-Islam posts on Twitter, and then Farage was hit by an Electoral Commission investigation into the party’s donation system, after coverage from Scram News and others.
Nevertheless, life ticked along for the Brexit Party as Farage’s stooges quickly established themselves as the comedy faction of the European Parliament, voting against progressive policies and picking up the pay checks they maintained they shouldn’t get. Meanwhile, Farage busied himself at parties, attending a controversial fundraiser for right-wing student group Turning Point UK and swapping stories at his public school reunion, despite still claiming he’s firmly anti-establishment.
Farage’s next big test would be the 2019 general election, in which he set out to achieve political domination – standing candidates in every constituency. But, after polls showed that Farage would struggle to win a single seat, cracks started to show in his operation. The pressures of political reality led Farage to stand down his candidates in every Tory-held seat, though even this didn’t prevent four MEPs from quitting the party.
However, even though the party performed so badly that it lost £80,000 in deposits, Parliament became sufficiently Brexity for Boris Johnson to finally push through his Withdrawal Bill. Job done, right?
And so, with his minions retreating from the dreaded jaws of the European Parliament, Farage set his sights on a different superpower, one – for some reason – he is happy to align the UK with.
He spoke alongside Donald Trump at a hardline conservative conference, and brandished the President’s new MAGA hat with pride. Touring round the US with Republican politicians, Farage enjoyed a dinner with Steve Bannon and accepted an honorary degree from a controversial US university.
But there was one last Brexit battle to fight. One which will surely go down in history. Would Big Ben bong to mark Brexit? Farage claimed the UK would be seen as a “joke” if it didn’t happen and his allies scrabbled to make the case for the gesture, as broadcast journalists facilitated the debate – unable, after three years, to think of anything else to talk about except Brexit.
Until now. In a political context shaped by coronavirus, a concept perhaps as nebulous as sovereignty, Farage has rebranded his populist persona as a virus vigilante, using a combination of Facebook lives and his LBC radio show to complain about China and present his oft-changing views about lockdown. This month, he faced criticism after he broke lockdown rules to rage about migrants entering the country during the pandemic – interviewing similarly minded citizens and stalking Britain’s coastline. Farage’s UKIP roots are still bearing fruit.
Then there has been activity which can only be categorised as “miscellaneous Farage”. Selling his autograph, threatening to write a book, and maintaining fundraising efforts for his mothballed party, it is hard to predict what will be next for Farage.
But, facing legal challenges from unhappy former Brexit Party candidates and becoming increasingly irrelevant as he copes with life outside Brussels, it seems as though Nigel Farage is a spent force. Or so we can only hope.
Kate Plummer is a Reporter at Scram News.
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