He never succeeded in becoming a member of the British House of Commons, but nevertheless became “the most influential politician in the last 150 years of British history” due to Brexit, according to his biographer Michael Crick.
Without Nigel Farage, the Brexit referendum would never have taken place and the United Kingdom might not have left the European Union. And as a result, the future of the entire United Kingdom is shaky; Scotland may hold an independence referendum within a few years, partly because the population was never there before Brexit. And Northern Ireland has been moving more towards reunification with the Republic of Ireland since Brexit.
“All part of Nigel Farage’s legacy,” States British journalist Michael Crick in his biography of Farage, One Party after Another. It amazes Crick ‘that no one had ever come up with the idea ” for a biography about him before. He described Farage as ” the most influential politician in the last hundred and fifty years of British history without having been a prominent member of either of the two major parties.” Even without ever having been a member of the House of Commons, because every attempt to be elected to it failed. Farage tried seven times.
The rise of UKIP
In addition to being a thorough description of Farage’s thinking and political career (Crick did about three hundred interviews with those involved), the book also reads as the genesis of the Brexit referendum and the messy period afterwards, in which the British government had to negotiate with the European Union about withdrawal.
Crick describes how the rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is ironically due to their representation in the European Parliament. A crucial decision by the Labour government under Tony Blair to have the elections for that Parliament run through proportional representation, unlike the elections for the House of Commons, lowered the bar there for UKIP to win seats.
Once elected, Nigel Farage and UKIP, however critical of Europe they may be, shamelessly use the platform offered to them by Parliament and the grants they receive from Brussels to further build their own party in the UK. Farage is vehemently opposed to the European system, but he and UKIP themselves do not take it so closely with the rules. So, for example, they hire their own relatives – in the case of Farage, both his wife and his mistress. He would later have to repay tens of thousands of pounds in incorrectly spent fees.
For many years, Farage has been particularly influential within UKIP without officially being the party leader. If he does, he will be a leader that dictators around the world would admire for his ruthlessness towards critics and potential rivals.” And at the same time a very approachable leader for the media, always ready for interviews: sometimes he drove to journalists for hours just to be able to give a few quotes. As of 2010, Farage also makes extensive use of then new media such as YouTube and Twitter, where he has a multi-million reach.
Even in that year, 2010, Farage is still far from being as well known as he leers against the then president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and calls him ‘a wet mop’. After that, his fame takes flight, as does the antipathy towards Europe in the UK. In that year, Farage used the slogan “Let’s Take Back Control” in one of his fruitless attempts to win a seat in the House of Commons. Six years before that becomes the slogan of the Leave camp in the Brexit referendum, for which the ex-adviser to Prime Minister Johnson Dominic Cummings, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, always gets the credit.
Around that referendum itself, Cummings and his colleagues try to ignore Farage’s striking purple campaign bus as much as possible. But Crick describes how the two camps (that of Farage and UKIP and that of a part of the Conservative Party, including Johnson and Cummings) may have helped each other to eventually win a majority. The UKIP supporters would not have listened to the arguments of the establishment and the Conservative voters would have found Farage too extreme and riotous.
“Without Nigel Farage and the growth of UKIP after 2012, [former prime minister] David Cameron would never have promised a referendum or would have kept that promise in 2015.”
After the referendum, Farage is trying to influence the way the UK leaves the EU with the Brexit Party and continues to put pressure on the Conservative Party. But once that retirement is a fact, the search is for him to find a new role. Crick sees how important media attention has become for Farage, almost a goal in itself. He calls Farage a “media animal” with his own radio show and an obsession with followers, viewers and online interaction.
All in all, Crick wrote a very detailed book. When it comes to the Brexit referendum and Farage’s role in national politics, that is interesting, on other points he shoots through. His extensive outline of UKIP’s years-long internal struggles could have been more concise. Even when he tries to determine whether Farage is racist or not, he lets all kinds of sources speak at length but does not draw a conclusion himself.
The biography ends where Farage continues. In recent months, he has been trying to tackle a new topic: the energy transition. Farage wants to force a referendum on the Johnson administration’s net zero policy. Whether he feels the zeitgeist as well as with Brexit is questionable. Some 60 percent of Britons support Johnson’s climate policy and the idea that the UK should switch to renewable energy. Yet other political parties view Farage with suspicion, knowing what he has achieved before. As Michael Crick points out, Farage’s ” destiny is to challenge the establishment.”