IF WE leave the EU next month, as the Prime Minister promises, it is Nigel Farage who should take the credit. He is more responsible than anyone or anything else for this colossal achievement. Not since the ‘wind of change’ has the course of British political history been so changed by one man.
Such thoughts are too easily forgotten after these last weeks when Johnson and Cummings ruthlessly took advantage of Farage’s principled decision to stand down half his candidates, giving the Conservatives a free run and securing their victory. Refusing to acknowledge this huge gesture, they denied The Brexit Party the chance of even one seat, though it would not have hurt their majority.
What other choice did Nigel Farage have when confronted with the split vote and second referendum threat? This was the decision of an honourable man who put the country before his party, as his former aide Annabelle Sanderson has written in Brexit Central. That it was exploited by the less principled and ungrateful Tories, who bizarrely appeared to see him as an enemy as bad as, if not worse than, Corbyn, I suspect did not surprise him. He must be used to it. He has been there before.
At least after the 2016 referendum was won, many of those reluctant to praise him still had to admit that Farage, more than any other individual, was responsible. Whatever Vote Leave chose to believe about the effectiveness of its NHS side-of-the-bus bribe, no one should be under any illusion that it was Nigel ‘wot did it’, and from the start. Nigel, not wavering Boris, and never the Conservatives.
Nor should they be in any doubt as to the Tories’ near-pathological response to the man who alone set and maintained the course – for over 20 years – for our liberation from the EU, and the restoration of our democracy as a self-governing nation.
After the 2016 referendum result Andrew Cadman wrote on TCW: ‘Mountains always look smaller looking back, and it is difficult now to credit just how hopeless and thankless the task of getting us out of the EU once seemed.’
Indeed so. And the same sentiment applies today after three years in which the establishment, with a Conservative government in power, did its best to scupper Brexit and still may prevent a meaningful one.
It is an understatement to say that the road to the referendum victory was a long, hard and lonely one for Farage. For most of the time since becoming a founder member of UKIP he’s been treated as the pariah of British politics, not least by the BBC, and still by a Conservative Party that now owes him so much.
I know. I was monitoring BBC EU output from 1999 for several years with David Keighley. The appalling treatment of this idiosyncratic politician at the BBC’s hands smacked us between the eyes, and it is fully documented.
He and UKIP were never accorded the airtime their party and (publicly popular) Eurosceptic stance – underlined by UKIP’s dramatic rise in the polls between 2010 and 2015 and its success in the 2014 EU Elections – deserved. Whatever UKIP’s shortcomings, it was not a neo-fascist party like some of the anti-EU groups that have sprung up on the Continent in recent years, and as part of the MSM chose to cast it. Though as Ford and Goodwin made crystal clear in their account, Revolt on the Right, this was due in no small part to Farage’s determination to build a decent party, it did little to change the default contemptuous attitude towards him.
The Leftie-appeasing but later terrified Tories continued to sneer though their own claim to the moral high ground was barely credible; the BBC treated Farage at best as a joke, at worst as a dangerous extremist. He was utterly traduced. But then, as Andrew Cadman explained: ‘Until the disastrous euro crisis of recent years, only bigots and backward-looking nostalgia-freaks were thought to resist it. Criticism of Europe was not so much out of the Overton Window but over the gate and away across the fields.’
Cadman explains again: Taking on the Left-liberal cultural zeitgeist had come at the price of enduring ‘an incessant torrent of vitriol and disgust’.
Farage persevered in face of it and delivered the referendum, Vote Leave casting him and his justified concerns about immigration as toxic throughout. So no wonder after the successful ‘Out’ result he was ready to step down. Job done, he thought.
Not so. What did we get but another decidedly establishment left-liberal Tory Prime Minister? The promise of maximum Brexit, even of Brexit at all, was soon in danger of being squandered.
The project in jeopardy, Farage climbed back into the saddle. Thank goodness. In a matter of months the newly formed Brexit Party stormed the 2019 EU Elections. Where would we have been without this, without the threat of Nigel and the Brexit Party to put some steel into the jelly-like Conservative spine? Theresa May still hanging in there?
He may still be needed for that role. Johnson would be well advised to put him on his Brexit/EU negotiating team. But I doubt he is big enough for that.
What the PM must do, however, is to show some grace, some generosity of spirit for once – in fact follow his own advice, as expressed in his chosen cliché, ‘Find closure and let the healing begin’. Start with the beam in his own eye perhaps.
With Brexit now on course to happen via Boris’s big majority, Farage and the BP are probably out of the picture – in the short term anyway – surely now is the time to afford some magnanimity.
Nigel won’t accept a peerage but at the very least, Boris, give him a knighthood. He created this result for you. If Jo Swinson could be made a CBE a year ago for ‘services to politics’, a ‘K’ for Nigel is the least he deserves. Even better, a statue in Parliament Square. How about it, Boris?
Will you do the decent thing?