Is Nigel Farage plotting yet another comeback?

Nigel Farage resigned several times and made several comebacks as leader of UKIP and then the Brexit Party – is he going to be tempted back?

Prof Matthew Goodwin, one of Britain’s leading academic commentators on the partly connected worlds of Brexit and civic nationalism, published an article this morning speculating that Nigel Farage – former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Brexit Party, and seen as a main architect of Brexit – is planning a return to front-line politics.

It’s easy to see why Farage might be tempted back into the political limelight. Despite his referendum triumph in 2016, his Conservative rivals in the pro-Brexit camp – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and their backroom guru Dominic Cummings – took far more of the credit and political benefit. Johnson remains for the moment Prime Minister, Gove is among the potential candidates to succeed him, and Cummings (despite his own acrimonious exit from the corridors of power) probably sees himself as kingmaker in the next Conservative leadership contest.

Meanwhile Farage failed even to be elected an MP, and is now a television presenter for the often risibly inept GB News.

Farage is tipped to return to party politics as part of Reform UK led by his former aide Richard Tice (seen above in Sidcup during a recent failed by-election campaign).

There are only two decent reasons to be in politics: either to win, or to make a serious and consistent contribution to an ideological legacy that one day might win. Farage has done neither, and that failure probably annoys him.

This week’s latest of many scandals that might just sink Boris Johnson will simultaneously add to Farage’s temptation. Is there a gap in the political market?

The short answer is yes, there is a political vacuum on what some would call the ‘right-wing’; but no, Nigel Farage is no longer the man to fill it.

In the Brexit era, Farage’s parties could be all things to all voters, with their ideological hollowness and opportunism disguised by an overriding focus on Brexit.

Yet behind all the populist banter, Farage and his inner circle were and remain essentially sub-Thatcherite libertarians. Their ideal post-Brexit Britain did not involve anything resembling racial nationalism, but rather a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ built on low taxes, a smaller state, and continuing mass immigration to hold down wages.

Nigel Farage (above left) with his party’s Manchester mayoral candidate, Rabbi Shneur Odze, who was later disgraced by scandal.

The Reform UK party which Farage helped create is very obviously based on that type of ‘free market’ ideology, which has little or no appeal to most of the northern working-class who voted for Brexit in 2016 and in large numbers for Boris Johnson’s Tories in 2019. That’s one reason why Reform UK has failed so badly, and though Farage would certainly be a more charismatic leader than its president frontman Richard Tice, he is unlikely to make any dramatic difference.

If Johnson really is finished, the short-term winners will be the Labour Party, not Reform UK or any other Farage party. And the long-term challenge to the political establishment will have to come from a racial nationalist force rising from the ashes of the BNP, not from the remnants of UKIP and the Brexit Party.

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