Last week we reported on theDaily Telegraph’s evening with Nigel Farage at Cadogan Hall in central London. This week we are publishing edited extracts from his entertaining and engaging tour de force on subjects that range from his new Brexit Party and freedom of speech to his views on climate change policy.
Today’s extracts focus on his decision to launch a new party.
YOU know, I’ve always said this – that I did not want to be a career politician, I’d come into politics because I was driven. The whole European project [was] going wrong . . . the whole of the euro too. It’s centralised, it’s undemocratic and, and just wrong on every level. So once Brexit has happened, we got the result of the referendum, Article 50 went through the House of Commons . . . Mrs May gave her Lancaster House speech; I thought it was done, I was happy to step back. What I did say was that if they mess up Brexit I’ll come back. But I realised when she came back from Chequers we had a problem. I realised by Christmas that with this House of Commons we would never, ever get Brexit through . . . and that was why, early in the year, I got the registration in for the Brexit Party.
What, Christoper Hope of the Telegraph also asked him, was the Brexit Party launch like on April 12 in Coventry, having ‘given his life to UKIP’?
For 26 years I was with UKIP . . . they’d gone in the wrong direction . . . I started this, registered in mid-February, [thinking] ‘this European Election’s going to happen’. And it was April 12 which was the day this was known we would fight the European Elections, so it was booked, the factory up in Coventry; we launched it, and, to be honest with you, it was a dream. The branding was right, the messaging was positive, it was right, we had good people on stage with us, Annunziata Rees-Mogg was the big surprise on that particular day, Jacob’s sister, [Jacob] who arguably wouldn’t have voted for Mrs May’s deal on the third time of asking. The online traffic around this was enormous, you guys covered it, other media covered it. [But not] the BBC. The appalling BBC and we’re being taxed over £150 every year. I think it’s about time the political parties stood up and said, ‘Let’s phase out the BBC licence fee’.
What about their unlikely mix of candidates, including Ann Widdecombe, former Conservative, and Claire Fox, former communist, and how extraordinary it was to get them in the same room.
No. No, it isn’t extraordinary. With respect, it’s extraordinary for those who live and breathe inside SW1 and inside Westminster, who are conditioned to [think that way]. We’ve got these two parties, one on the Left [words unclear, includes ‘Corbyn’] and one that says it’s on the Right, but really is in the centre. And actually, this issue, Brexit, whether we should be an independent, self-governing nation or not, this is the most important political question we’ve faced as a country for centuries. It crosses all the divides of Left and Right. So, no, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.’
Hope asks him about Marxists outside the venue giving out their magazine, because they too believe in Brexit.
Tony Benn was one of the best exponents of why we should never have joined the Common Market in the first place. I wouldn’t have agreed with him (elsewhere), but on this vital question I would. And again, part of our success is bringing people together . . . we were at Featherstone, which is a small mining village in Yorkshire, at Featherstone Working Men’s Club on a Thursday morning, the bar was open . . . and there were a group of ex-miners and their families . . . and they cheered us to the rafters, and it shows you the power of the Brexit argument across all of those divides.
Hope asks him to confirm that Ann Widdecombe called him up from a cruise ship and that 1,500 other potential candidates applied to be Brexit Party MEPs.
She was on a cruise, she was speaking on a cruise, she was in the Norwegian Fjords, I’d heard her interviewed on LBC a couple of weeks before, and she said, ‘For the first time in 53 years, I may not vote Conservative, I may vote for The Brexit Party, depending who their candidates are’. Never did I imagine for one moment she’d ring up and say ‘Can I please be a candidate?’ Well, I of course accepted immediately. And I have to say, she worked like a trouper – she was all over the United Kingdom. I mean, there isn’t much of her, you know, about 5ft 1, and I tell you something, if my speeches over the years have caused consternation to Herman Van Rompuy and Jean-Claude Juncker, just wait till Ann Widdecombe . . .
What was really interesting is we were seeing different people applying, the type of people who just would not [normally] do politics, business people – people who were making potentially very big sacrifices to do this. But I think we’ve reached a moment in our politics where people realise this is absolutely critical. The next six months to a year, whatever it may be, is going to determine the direction of our country for decades to come. So, Chris, I’m thrilled at the calibre of the people who came forward.
Is he an old-fashioned campaigner with his battle bus and loudspeaker?
Well, there you are, you’re up there, you’re visible, people can agree with you, they can disagree with you, but they can see you, you’re out there . . . I was shouting [to queues of traffic] ‘Give us a beep for Brexit.’ That was the fun, and then what we do is we stop [in] town centres on market day, and I’ve never been scared, [out and about] on a market day, or visiting the pubs or . . . well, lots of that. (Audience laughter) Or whatever it may be. And this is why, this is why this new aggression, unpleasant . . . violence is worrying. Because if you’re not allowed or not able to go and meet the people, what’s happened to our democracy?
In tomorrow’s extracts Nigel Farage discusses the balance between the right to free speech and the incitement of violence.