COURTESY of the Daily Telegraph, I spent yesterday evening with Nigel Farage, who was being interviewed on stage by Christopher Hope, better known perhaps as ‘Chopper’, who produces a Brexit podcast for the Telegraph. The audience were all Telegraph readers or subscribers, aged from 17 to 70-plus, about half and half men and women and a range of ethnicities, as per the Telegraph readership. I don’t think many of them had voted Remain.
The interview covered the history of the Brexit Party and its future. Nigel Farage’s answers were quick, clear, polished, funny and engaging. Now, I have seen Nigel speak to audiences of supporters and he is a hugely powerful and persuasive orator. This was a different format, with questions and answers. But he remained engaging and compelling. So what did we learn?
Would he do a general election deal with Boris? Yes – subject to Boris having called one in order to get Brexit done. He was very scathing about both Boris and Rees-Mogg putting the interest of the Conservative Party ahead of the country by voting for Mrs May’s ‘worst deal in history’ Bill at the third time of asking. He does not trust politicians but would ‘do a deal with the devil to deliver Brexit’.
Yes, he would do a deal with the US. He ridiculed the civil service and Liam Fox, who feel unable to open negotiations until we’re out of the EU. So the Brexit Party are going to start them anyway and are sending a delegation to Washington this summer to get things under way. This may be upsetting for the mandarins, and in several answers it became clear that he will be seeking reforms to the senior civil service. Other reforms include the BBC, which he would like to see lose the licence fee and become a subscription service. Postal voting needs to be reviewed and I suspect the Electoral Commission will have to up its game. The House of Lords, packed as it is with Tony’s cronies and Dave’s mates, also needs attention.
On Jo Brand and milkshakes, he confirmed that the person who threw one over him was prosecuted (as has every other person who has assaulted him). Asked if that was overkill, he made the point that physical assaults on people expressing a political view is the first step on the journey to the loss of freedom of speech. Moreover, he argued, how can politicians do their job if they can’t meet the electorate? Which is why he is gunning for Left-wing ‘comedians’ who seem not to understand the importance of this freedom, and the organisation that supports them, the BBC. Unfinished business here, and I think the luvvies are in for a very hard time.
We then moved to questions from the audience. Responses were again quick, coherent, witty and contained good points. A couple of times he was a little defensive – which with Nigel means more aggressive. Asked how, as a Marmite character, he would unite the nation, he took a couple of minutes unnecessarily and forcefully explaining that a less driven person would not have achieved what he has before pointing out that the unity would come from stability and increasing wealth. Challenged as to whether Brexit was a distraction from dealing with climate change, his answer started by being (rightly) dismissive of Mrs May’s latest 2050 zero-carbon lunacy, before revealing that he had once voted Green.
But, unlike the denizens of Westminster, he answered every question. No deflections, no diversions and very few knockabout jokes. His theme, that politics has already changed from Labour/Conservative to Leave/Remain, that the current political parties have delivered incapable MPs elected on the basis of a brand not a manifesto, that this has to change and that the Brexit Party is the way to do it, was compelling.
At the end he received a standing ovation, something I have never seen at a similar event. The final words go to one of the questioners in the audience, who started: ‘Mr Farage, I am 29 years old and this is the first time in my life that I have seen a conviction politician.’ Match that, Boris and Rory.
The future is turquoise.