Yet again, the ever-desperate Left thought they landed a punch on Nigel Farage, only to end up swinging at thin air. His crime this time? Having a customary Farage-like jolly at the traditional Boxing Day hunt. “Bit Establishment isn’t it?” they crowed. “Not much of a man of the people is your Nige, is he?” they scoffed.
A self-confessed Faragista, it came as no surprise to me. It was just Farage being Farage.
The Left never has found a way to properly tackle Farage, for they have consistently failed to understand his appeal. Since rising to prominence post-2010, Farage has suffered just a solitary political defeat: his bid to become an MP in Thanet South in 2015 – and even that’s under investigation for overspending.
He led UKIP to an unprecedented victory in the 2014 European elections and to nearly four million votes in the 2015 general election. He was then instrumental in the Leave side’s – despite being ostracised from the official campaign – triumph in the 2016 EU referendum, before capping off the year predicting and quasi-endorsing US president-elect Donald Trump.
How has he managed it? Farage is the most ridiculed and laughed at politician in the UK. Want a cheap laugh? Attack Farage, the former city trader now masquerading as a ‘man of the people’. What a joker.
Except that’s not the Farage voters see. Why? Because what they consider a Farage gaffe – being pictured at the hunt, having his photo taken next to a Margaret Thatcher portrait, standing in front of Trump’s golden elevator – aren’t gaffes at all. It’s just Farage playing a straight bat. Those who scorned and sneered at him simultaneously did so at a millions-strong demographic, who were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
Much like Trump, Farage doesn’t pretend to be somebody he’s not. Trump chats like a brash blue-collar New Yorker, yet grasps at every opportunity and non-opportunity to inform you how insanely rich he is. Farage, on the other hand, doesn’t – and has never tried – to hide that he’s an old-style Tory who enjoyed his younger years trading metals as a city boy, supports relaxing handgun laws and, indeed, loves a good old-fashioned hunt.
It’s that honesty which people appreciate, warts and all. They aren’t bothered that he’s not ‘one of them’, but they do care that he’s speaking to them, and addressing genuine concerns – the EU, immigration and more – that have been long ignored. Few politicians can smoke and drink as comfortably as Farage because it’s not in their nature to do so. It’s not an act – it’s just Farage being Farage. The Left overthink it, seeing pubbing and beer-swilling as a pre-planned photo-op. In reality, it’s just a good chance to have a break and talk with the locals – a novel idea, right?
He has always been the same; even during the times when backing him was viewed as a bizarre hobby instead of a cult obsession. It’s a realness that has permeated deeply among the electorate.
UKIP’s growing presence in the north of England is a direct result of the old Labour vote finally having somebody who at least speaks to them. For decades they’ve been considered a given, line-toers. Hence, they’ve been forgotten. Then, when their cross on the ballot finally mattered once more, they shocked Westminster and the world by securing Brexit.
It was Farage who harnessed that vote. Nobody else had the knowhow. Charisma helps and he does have buckets of it, but it was shunning the politician’s filter that proved most vital to winning his battles.
Farage doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t, that’s just a failed Left tactic to rebuke him. “He’s not one of you!” says the politician or pundit who sure isn’t one of them. Who would you trust, a person who’s dared to slingshot your issues into the limelight, or a person who’s spent years trying to suppress them?
Democrat Joe Biden nailed it when reminiscing recently about an old quote from his father: “I don’t expect the government to solve my problems. But I expect them to understand it.” That was Biden’s astute reasoning as to why Hillary Clinton lost.
If the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that populism is a beautiful thing, not a nasty beast. Like all movements, there’s going to be the odd ugly offspring, but it stimulates political debate and moves the conversation to where voters want it – that can only be a good thing. Contrary to exposed talking heads, Trump couldn’t have disgusted folk that much. He won after all. Meanwhile, the EU referendum garnered the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since 1992.
Whether Farage or Trump end up being right remains to be seen – the respective triggers have been pulled, now we must wait. But in Farage’s case at least, that his opposition preferred pillaging him over his stances explains why they are now so regularly defeated – it was that same-old swinging at thin air.
The modern-day Left could never have beaten Nigel Farage, because their pantomime villain version of him never existed. However, the real Nigel Farage is the realest, realest. He dropped Brexit and let the whole world feel it. And ironically, in doing so, perhaps he really has become a man of the people.