By Jonathan Lee
Another day, another soggy, lactose-drenched racist. The latest far-right figure to be ‘milkshaked’ was none other than Nigel Farage, who looked a sorry state last Monday spattered with Five Guys banana and salted caramel milkshake.
The liberal centre and right cried that this was a step too far. But don’t feel too sorry for Nige; with his smooth-talking, bloke down the pub, no-nonsense veneer, Nigel Farage represents the smiling face of the far-right in Britain.
With the weekend’s EU Elections bringing a landslide victory for his newly formed Brexit Party, it’s important to take a closer look at the man who is charting a concerning course to a position of real power in the UK.
We still have a tendency in the UK to see him only as ‘Mr. Brexit’; an affable, tweed-wearing publican with a striking resemblance to Toad in Toad Hall. But he’s no longer so two-dimensional a character. The UK has not caught up with Farage’s changing image and politics, which have lurched to the far-right whilst maintaining the cheery chappy visage. Nigel is without a doubt the UK’s leading figure in a continuum of extreme-right ideologues stretching from Eastern Europe, to Italy, France and Germany, and across the Atlantic to the White House. His congenial, sometimes even oafish, schtick is an affectation which belies the more sinister elements of a man who mixes with neo-fascists the world over.
For a man who has built his political platform on being a Eurosceptic, Nigel Farage seems to forever be in Brussels or Strasbourg, where he broadcasts regularly for LBC Radio. During his time on the continent Nigel has not wasted the opportunity to link up with far-right xenophobes from around the Union. In 2017 he addressed a rally of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) Party where he received a standing ovation. AfD are an islamophobic, anti-immigration, eurosceptic, homophobic, anti-feminist, climate change-sceptical, far-right party who call for Germany to reclaim its nationalist pride and dispel any national shame for the Nazi’s historical crimes. They have been embroiled in various public scandals relating to anti-semitism, neo-nazi movements, members going on Hitler pilgrimages, and were described as “Nazis” by Germany’s Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel. In 2017 Farage also backed France’s Front national leader, Marine Le Pen, who once argued France was not responsible for rounding up Jews during the Holocaust. He has referred to Hungary’s autocratic leader, Viktor Orbán as “the future of Europe” and once defended his party’s decision to allow a racist, misogynistic, holocaust-denying Polish MEP into UKIP’s EU parliamentary group.
Just last weekend Italy’s neo-fascist Interior Minister and leader of the far-right Lega Party, Matteo Salvini, hinted at a cross-party alliance with the Brexit Party in the European Parliament, saying; “it’s a beautiful Europe and I’m waiting for Nigel Farage to join.”
Salvini has been accused of dragging his country back in time politically, towards a return to fascism. He is vocally islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Roma. He has proposed policies reminiscent of the race laws of the 1930’s, such as a 9pm curfew for ‘ethnic shops’, a special census of Romani people, and the rounding up and deportation of migrants and Romani people from Italy. His beaming endorsement of Farage alone should be enough to set alarm bells ringing. But Nigel keeps just as dodgy company outside of Europe as he does here.
Aside from declaring Vladimir Putin as the world leader he “most admires”, and some nebulous, dark links to Russia via Leave.EU, which were scrutinised by the Mueller investigation, old Nige has spent a good deal of time in the USA. There he has cosied up to not only Donald Trump, but also big-name leading figures in the American ‘Alt-Right’.
He has appeared no less than six times on InfoWars, the radio show of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who promotes white supremacist ideologies and anti-semitic ‘New World Order’ conspiracies. In the most recent interview, Farage made the bizarre assertion that the political left are in league with radical Islamists, dismissed climate change as a scam, and used coded anti-semitic language to make the claim that Globalists in the banking and political sectors (a.k.a Jews) are trying to subvert democracy and take over the world. Alex Jones has since been banned from Facebook and other networks for his extreme views which incite racial hatred. Farage is also pretty friendly with ex-Trump aide and far-right website Breitbart founder, Steve Bannon, who he thanked in a recently leaked video from after the 2016 Brexit Referendum, saying; “well done Bannon, well done Breitbart, you helped with this – hugely.”
Considering the questionable far-right company he keeps, the now infamous ‘breaking point’ poster, which featured him standing in front of a sea of brown faces stretching into the distance, becomes all the more sinister. The UKIP campaign image was slammed at the time for being eerily similar to Nazi propaganda about Jews. Nigel recently defended the use of the poster and said he had no regrets about its use.
Go back even further to his school days at Dulwich College and an even more disturbing picture begins to emerge. An open letter from an old schoolmate in 2016 remembers Nigel proudly doodling his initials ‘NF’ in the style of the National Front symbol, as well as him singing neo-Nazi songs with the lyrics ‘gas them all, gas ‘em all, gas them all’. In 2013, a letter written in 1981 by English teacher Chloe Deakin to the headteacher of Dulwich College was released. The letter protests his appointment as a school prefect and describes the concerns of several teachers about his “publicly professed racist and neo-fascist views.” It also recounts how Nigel was a vocal admirer of the far-right British politician Enoch Powell, and also a particular incident where he allegedly sang Hitler Youth songs during a Cadets camp organised by the school.
Boys will be boys right?
Alone, these rumours from his youth paint a picture of a cock-sure, rebellious teen seeking to provoke his teachers and classmates with taboo politics. When viewed in consideration of the 55-year-old far-right icon that Nigel Farage has become, these tales from the eighties seem darkly prophetic.
Today Nigel’s core politics and beliefs are just as difficult to discern as they were when he was a teenager. He is a chancer; a man who toes the line of respectability whilst courting some of the most dangerous figures on the extreme fringes of the European political right. His rhetoric seamlessly adapts to that of the hard-right authoritarian governments of Central Europe, the chomping-at-the-bit white supremacists of Trump’s America, or your average, austerity-bitten person living in the South Wales Valleys.
Despite his numerous claims to the contrary, Nigel is a man who is most certainly ‘of the elites’. He is a multi-millionaire with a lavish, taxpayer funded lifestyle, who resided in a £4 million house in Chelsea, and used a tax haven in the Isle of Man. Nigel is correct, however, when he asserts that he is “not a politician”, because he’s not. He is a media personality. His attendance record is amongst the worst in the EU Parliament. He turns up about once a month in order to rail against the EU (regardless of what is being discussed in the session), knowing the power his words will have in a wider YouTube audience, who are not remotely interested in the daily realities of European politics. His political capital has been built almost entirely through the media, particularly in strange corners of the far-right internet which have been brought into the mainstream.
Amidst all this, Nigel has practically never mentioned Wales specifically. That is until his Brexit Party tour bus decided to campaign this side of the border in order to win over the Brexit voters of impoverished areas of the South. In Merthyr, he was recently pressed by reporter Arwyn Jones about what exactly Brexit would offer for Wales, and was unable to offer much more than soundbites.
Whilst the Brexit outlook for Wales is far from certain, the recent EU elections voter turnout in favour of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party shows many in Wales are still pro-Brexit. Many votes for the Brexit Party were likely made in protest of the atrocious handling of Brexit by the Westminster government, but it is still a dangerous shot in the dark. Nigel’s party are represented in the Senedd by a London-born, private school boy; an Oxford and Columbia educated former banker and barrister, who was parachuted in from England to lead the single-issue party in Wales. He wants to tear up the Human Rights Act, has a history of changing party allegiances like the wind, and oh – his actual, for-real name is Mark Reckless.
Without any policies to speak of, and a questionable band of racists and xenophobes shoring up their party, the Brexit Party are a risky unknown. Their candidates have a history of changing allegiances after being elected on another party’s ticket. Who knows what Nigel’s policy-less, memberless, corporate experiment of party will become now that they have a foothold. Their victory in the EU elections just keep the gravy train going a bit longer for Nigel, and adds further legitimacy to his own brand of watered down, home counties, pint-swilling fascism which he champions here, and across the globe.