Brexit firebrand Nigel Farage sets out plan to topple the British establishment
His new Brexit Party is readying itself for European elections later this month
If the repeated attempts by the UK to leave the European Union have been a tragic comedy, the latest effort by Eurosceptic figurehead Nigel Farage to enforce Brexit and fight against the establishment had elements of pantomime.
At a packed-out conference centre in the town of Peterborough, Mr Farage and his comrades from the newly-minted Brexit Party disembarked to rally support for European elections later this month and ramp up the pressure on the political class.
“Do we believe in Brexit ladies and gentlemen?” asked party chairman Richard Tice. “Yes,” the crowd roared back. “When do we want it?” shouted the millionaire entrepreneur. “Now,” responded the throng of people.
Often derided, Mr Farage and his erstwhile band of anti-Brussels allies had hoped they wouldn’t have to set foot in the European Parliament again but Westminster has thus far failed to vote through the government’s withdrawal plan.
The original date for leaving the EU of March 29 has been pushed back and now stands at October 31. The anger and frustration from both sides of the Brexit debate has led to a surge in interest in new populist parties, including not only Mr Farage’s but also the pro-Remain Change UK.
A recent poll suggests the Brexit Party will have a good performance, with YouGov finding 30 per cent of those asked about their voting intentions saying they would support it – nine per cent more than Labour in second and then Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party at 13 per cent.
There is a lot of anger at Ms May’s decision to postpone Brexit and reach out to Labour to try and hammer out a deal that, if agreed, would likely to align the UK closer to the EU than envisioned – rather than leave on World Trade Organisation Rules as the Brexit Party wants.
“She has made us a laughing stock in the eyes of the rest of the world and yet her own gutless, spineless career politician MPs haven’t had the courage to get rid of her,” Mr Farage told the Peterborough crowd, some 1,500-strong, on Tuesday evening.
“However low I thought Mrs May and our political class had sunk, those negotiations that are going on in Downing Street right now are plumbing new depths.”
Mr Farage, who styles himself as a vanguard against the self-interested elite, has always been adored by a decent-sized chunk of the population and knows how to charm a crowd.
Richard Clay from Peterborough said he was here to “send a message to parliament”.
Striding into the auditorium, Mr Farage shakes every hand of those in the aisle and descends on the stage to people chanting his first name.
While Mrs May and her allies came under attack, so to do Remainers of the past and present political class, from inside and outside the EU, who are accused of subverting democracy in calling for a second vote.
So too are the civil service, painted as pro-EU people working in the shadows to manipulate policy.
“Change UK – they don’t want to change a darn thing. Have you seen their logo? it looks like a Sainsbury's checkout barcode,” scoffed Mr Farage to the uproarious audience.
But while the Brexit Party has its sights initially on barrelling into the European Parliament and disrupting from within, its message, it hopes, runs far deeper.
Fundamentally it sees a fracture in the two-party political class that dominates the UK’s policymaking. On Tuesday, it announced it would be putting forward a candidate for every seat in parliament when a general election finally happens.
“This is a full-on battle against the establishment and the vested interests in this country. We need to change politics for good,” said Mr Farage.
“We are fighting for the very principle of whether we are to be a democratic nation. This is not about left or right – its about right or wrong.”
Updated: May 9, 2019 01:55 AM