SO, Nigel Farage, a man who has risen from the dead more times than Christopher Lee’s Dracula, bows out of active politics at the age of 56 – this time supposedly for good. He argues that since Brexit, although imperfect, has been achieved, his mission is complete.
But has Brexit really been achieved, and does it really define the entirety of his political legacy?
On balance, I think Farage is right on Brexit. As he acknowledges, the final deal is in some ways glaringly deficient. Judged by his oft-repeated assertion that a comprehensive trade deal would be ‘the easiest deal in history’, our position is indeed suboptimal. He, like most of us, failed to foresee how ruthless the EU would be in protecting its interests and, to an even greater degree, how deeply rotten the British establishment had become, trying to frustrate the democratic will of the British people at every turn.
That said, we seem to have achieved ‘escape velocity’. Britain, as distinct from Northern Ireland, is no longer bound by EU rules in perpetuity and has gained the unilateral ability to tear up the trade agreement at any time. As the EU continues to decline and so does the importance of our trade with it, our future negotiating position will wax as the EU’s wanes. Assuming the Union survives, it should prove possible to alleviate Ulster’s travails and repatriate an increasing percentage of fishing in future years.
Beyond Brexit, however, Farage has another almost entirely unappreciated legacy which is arguably just as important: he taught the Right a lesson it desperately needed to learn, something that the Left has understood for decades: that in Britain political office is largely decoupled from political power. Moreover, he showed them that it was possible to win. Pre-Farage, the conservative Right spent its time praying forlornly both for the return of Maggie and the Tory Party to conservative values it has in fact rarely if ever believed in: on the issue of ‘Europe’ as elsewhere, to be conservative was to take part in an unending carousel ride of false hope followed by betrayal and defeat; Farage’s UKIP was the grandfather of a plethora of new right-wing entities such as the Reform UK, Reclaim and Heritage parties who understand that true political power lies with whoever most effectively intimidates the shape-shifting, parasitical Tories into following its agenda. Likewise, his notorious if often hilarious YouTube performances have undoubtedly helped inspire a generation of British conservative vloggers such as Paul Joseph Watson, Mahyar Tousi and Michael Heaver. Such independent voices will prove enormously important in the years ahead, as an issue which dwarfs Brexit, namely the atrophy and decline of Western culture, impacts on our politics to an ever greater degree.
Nigel Farage is a heroic figure, lauded or reviled according to taste for reshaping not just British but European political history to a degree that, at such close proximity to the event, we cannot presently fully comprehend. Given the size of the challenges that we still face, has he bowed out too early, perhaps when we needed him as much as ever? Although he vows to continue campaigning on alternative media, we shall certainly still miss his unparalleled ability and courage in speaking deeply uncomfortable truths to power in the mainstream media. No British political figure even comes close to his mastery of the political interview, understanding that you are speaking to the audience rather than trying to impress the woke and hostile metropolitan journalist grilling you, as timid and defensive professional politicians constantly try to do.
That said, Farage had serious weaknesses as a political leader that may mean he was not the man to take the fight forward. He is neither a team player nor a team builder, destroying all rivals in his path and showing a brutal ruthlessness in sacrificing those who have served him for the good of the cause. This behaviour reached a low during campaigning for the 2019 European Elections, when he smeared Gerard Batten’s UKIP as proto-fascist, arguably putting its activists, many of whom had loyally followed him for years, at risk of physical assault. Later on, Grand Old Duke of York-style, he marched Brexit Party candidates to the top of the hill and down again, unilaterally withdrawing then in Tory seats. If you were a young and ambitious activist thinking of a future in Reform UK, would you seriously want to be led by someone with that kind of track record?
Still, we have far, far more cause to feel grateful than resentful. Giving up a lucrative career for what seemed a cause as hopeless as it was ignored, he was plainly motivated by altruism and love of country. At times, during the many reverses and humiliations, he must have felt horribly lonely, that he had completely wasted his life. But he kept up the fight. In so doing he saved his country and perhaps Europe along with it. We should salute him, wish him well and remember our eternal gratitude.
God bless you, Nigel Farage.