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Don’t count Nigel Farage out just yet

Does Nigel Farage value Britain over America? Credit: Getty

May 25, 2024 - 6:30pm

Who knows what Nigel Farage is really up to? Apart from Farage himself, that is, though he sometimes seems to have trouble making his mind up. But now he has, what are we to make of his decision not to stand for Reform UK in July’s general election?

In a statement posted on X, Farage declared: “I will do my bit to help in the campaign, but it is not the right time for me to go any further than that.” It was, however, apparently the right time for him to focus his energy across the pond. “Important though the general election is,” he said, “the contest in the United States of America on November 5 has huge global significance.” Accordingly, he continued, “I intend to help with the grassroots campaign in the USA in any way I can.”

It would seem the man who, in Brexiteers’ eyes, helped “give them their country back”, has clearly decided, notwithstanding the fact that, as he puts it, “only Reform have the radical agenda that is needed to end decline” in the UK, the UK (and its decline) isn’t now his main priority.

In fairness, Farage has cancelled his GB News show in the run-up to the general election, apparently so he can help the Reform campaign. Yet his detractors will no doubt note that the opportunities offered by teaming up with Donald Trump between now and November are far more lucrative than those available to him on home soil.

A more charitable view is that Farage really does believe that the world — and by implication Britain — is under threat from the increasingly broad catch-all of “globalism”. To stay and fight it on this small island would be pointless, the argument runs. Better, instead, to confront it alongside the guy with the best chance of putting it to the sword, and if that means being accused of deserting his troops to run away to the MAGA circus, then so be it.

Really, the truth may lie somewhere in between. And there may, in any case, have been other factors bearing on his decision — some short-term, some long-term. In the short-term, Farage, who is no fool, has presumably (and probably wisely given its poor showing in recent local and by-elections) come to the conclusion that Reform is unlikely to make that big a splash in July’s snap contest, and certainly not one big enough to give him even the remotest chance of finally taking a seat in the House of Commons.

His claim on GB News that he’d “put in place some preparations to launch [a campaign] next week” but had been “wrong-footed” by Sunak’s surprise announcement did little either to clarify his rationale or to convince anyone that he has as much confidence in Reform’s current leader, Richard Tice. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us, given that the best excuse Tice could come up with for Farage’s failure to step up was that his standing “involves threats to his life”.

But Farage may also be thinking long-term. While he has pooh-poohed suggestions that he might one day re-join the Conservative Party after leaving it in the early Nineties, it remains a possibility no-one should discount. Indeed, it’s still something of a dream for those who believe that the scourge of progressive liberalism can only be fought by “uniting the Right” behind a genuine (as opposed to an ersatz) populist. Were Farage to have gone full-throttle anti-Tory over the next six weeks, he would surely have damaged his chances of convincing any doubtful Conservatives to take a chance on him as their leader in a few years’ time.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Farage will go AWOL in the campaign, or that Reform is no longer capable of costing the Conservatives a fair few seats on 4 July. But, whatever the reasons behind his decision not to lead his party’s charge, Tory high command will be breathing a small sigh of relief — for now at least.


Tim Bale is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London and Director of the Mile End Institute.

ProfTimBale

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Rob N
Rob N
29 days ago

There is so little difference between Cons and Lab that it is barely worth voting and I shall probably, for the first time, spoil my paper. So fully understand why Farage thinks the US is what matters; seems to be a significant difference there.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
29 days ago
Reply to  Rob N

I’m coming to the same conclusion.

Dr E C
Dr E C
28 days ago
Reply to  Rob N

Out of curiosity, why not vote for Reform?

El Uro
El Uro
29 days ago

the MAGA circus – ?

Phil Day
Phil Day
29 days ago

Agree with him that now is not the right time to take another tilt at becoming an mp – at 60 he does have the luxury of waiting for a better one. Not sure that Reform in its current form is the right vehicle either (and l’m a paid up supporter). He’s proving quite successful campaigning for select issues outside Westminster and l doubt that will change.
Looks like the Tories are set to lose heavily then implode after the next election, Labour will then be unnoposed and are unlikely to resist the temptation to enact changes and policies which will alienate and/or infuriate very large sections of the UK. It won’t take very long for the public to recognise that, while the Tories have been terrible, Labour doesn’t have any viable solutions and what it does try makes things worse. Expect Labour itself to start fragmenting as this progresses.
The resulting political landscape should prove very fertile for Farage (and others) who want to see a movement capable of reshaping the centre right. As yet it’s not clear what form that movement might take which is another reason he may want to keep his powder dry for the moment.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
28 days ago
Reply to  Phil Day

I suspect the Tories won’t fully implode, they will probably come back with 80 to 100 seats.
This election won’t resolve the massive political issues the UK has at this time, that’s going to take 5 years to resolve, and probably 3 general elections within that 5 years.

El Uro
El Uro
28 days ago
Reply to  Phil Day

I’m not sure. Look at the demographics. I’m sure you won’t like my words, but to me, an outside observer, Britain now resembles a carelessly crafted effigy of Great Britain. It’s all pretty similar, but here and there you can see some moth holes and some straw stuffing.
.
Although, compared to the background of the old countries of continental Europe, you are still very good

Phil Day
Phil Day
28 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

From outside the UK a lot of what you see is the image progressive graduates in the media etc. want you to see. Get away from London and the big cities you will find plenty of ‘real’ Britain – and many parts are very angry with the damage that is being done to the country by our self identifying ‘betters’.
I’m guessing it’s not too different in large parts of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

El Uro
El Uro
26 days ago
Reply to  Phil Day

Thank you, Phil!
I must admit that you are right and I am wrong.
Thanks to you, I vividly remembered with what trepidation my friends, calling me from Europe, asked me how I manage to escape from Hamas rockets

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
27 days ago
Reply to  Phil Day

Labour will win this election by talking about anything at all other than their energy policies. The establishment media will enable them in this. By the time the majority of the population realise what the future holds for them it will be too late. The process, begun by Tony Blair and continued by his Conservative acolytes, of removing any electoral control over the administrative state will have been completed.
The elites in Britain know perfectly well that, for Net Zero to be achieved, democratic accountability must be removed. With almost no exceptions they are convinced that this is necessary and right. The criminalisation of dissent begun with ‘hate crime’ laws will be extended to ‘climate denialism’.
This is the last election. Sure, there might be a vote in 5 years’ time. But there won’t be a choice.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
29 days ago

How many times has this clown run for parliament? 6? 7?
And you people are still obsessed with him. Comical.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
29 days ago

He achieved his goal of Brexit without being elected to Parliament…rather impressive for a “clown”.
And it is the entire political class, including the MSM, which is obsessed with him because he has political power which they cannot control.

Geoff W
Geoff W
28 days ago

Seven. And if he stands again this time, he’ll lose again.
Reform will get nowhere.
But indeed, still they write about him endlessly.
I look forward to the delicious irony of the Great British Patriot decamping to the US.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
28 days ago

Anyone who follows and comments on content s/he despises as often as you do, Champagne Socialist, stands in need of a hobby.  

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
29 days ago

The only way Farage will find his way to Westminster is via proportional representation.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
28 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

hmm, proportional representation, the voting system designed for politicians by politicians.
Looking into the EU we see that PR has filled their parliaments with extremists, we don’t want that in the UK

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
28 days ago

Why not? If 10% vote for the Greens or Reform why shouldn’t they get 10% of the seats?
Current polls seem to show Reform and Lib Dems both winning around 8-10% of the vote but Lib Dems to win 40 seats and Reform to not win any. How is that a better system?

Kat L
Kat L
28 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

IMHO it would be better to have winner takes all. It’s no wonder nothing gets done with so many interests to be compromised with.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Too many oxen need to be gored for that happen.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
28 days ago

You are very kind to Farage, but the truth is the old demagogue, for that is what he is, had an opportunity in this election to project himself and ‘his’ party Reform.
He’s bottled it for the Trump$ .. it stinks doesn’t it?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
27 days ago

The Trump dollars? Nigel Farage’s connection to Donald Trump is financial?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
28 days ago

Why did my comment get removed??

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Expletives.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
28 days ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

There were no expletives. It was a very mild comment.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago

It eludes me why Farage should get himself involved in the car wreck that is British politics right now. The Tories are finished for at least a decade and the Labour Party cannot extract the country from his current dilemmas and will pay the price for it. He is wise to remain free of the darkness that lies in the future.