June 20, 2024

Farage, the national populist of Great Britain, announced his resignation and shook the British election campaign.

This Tuesday, exactly one month before the election date, the seaside town of Clacton, northeast of London, received an unexpected spotlight: in front of dozens of cameras and microphones, national populist Nigel Farage launched his campaign for a local council mandate. Earlier in the day, the British media were hanging on his every word as the 60-year-old reversed a ten-day hiatus from politics and reclaimed the leadership of the far-right Reform UK Party.

Why the fuss?

That’s because the previous election campaign between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives and Labor under Keir Starmer was “more boring than ever”, a la Donald Trump. That’s why he decided to change his mind: “It’s not always a sign of weakness.”

The statement was necessary because Farage has so far decisively rejected his eighth bid for the House of Commons. Even if he doesn’t, his electoral vehicle Reform will contribute to the UK “destruction of the Conservatives, this bunch of charlatans”. He wants to focus on the US elections in November and promote his friend Trump.

Of course, joint campaign appearances with erstwhile reform leader Richard Dice quickly turned into an embarrassing farce. Electors everywhere rallied around the former MEP, who has been politically active for a quarter of a century, and the party leader stood unconcerned – or the height of humiliation, asked to be photographed by eager Farage supporters. On Sunday, over a pint at his local pub, he decided to go into the pub himself, the man said. Dice not only accepted his decision, but welcomed it.

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What are the reactions?

Rishi Sunak was not officially affected. “On the morning of July 5, one of two people will be prime minister: Keir Starmer or me,” the acting prime minister said. Behind closed doors, of course, there is a sense of panic among the Tories. This was further fueled by two very detailed polls, which suggested that the Lower House segment (most recently 345 members) could shrink to between 180 and 140 seats. It will be close to the 1906 low. According to YouGov, among others, the seats of twelve cabinet members are at risk.

Former Conservative Farage declared the election a victory: “Labour has won.” Now his job is to provide radical right opposition. He expects millions of votes, significantly more than UKIP had in 2015. At the time, 3.8 million Britons voted for the National Populists; Due to the British majority voting system, only one UKIP person entered the House of Commons and Farage narrowly missed out on the mandate he was aiming for. A conservative official later received a suspended prison sentence without re-polling for violating election laws.

How does Farage’s resignation affect his resignation?

“This has turned the Conservatives’ headache into a migraine,” observes Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London. According to all the polls, most of the reform vote will come from voters who supported the Tories in the most recent election in 2019, unlike UKIP in 2015. “A few more percentage points to reform could mean losing an additional ten or twenty constituencies,” Bale said. It means the Tories’ already slim chances have fallen again. “I’m sure Labour’s champagne corks will pop.”

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Of course, close confidants of Labor leader Starmer, such as campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden, warn against too much carelessness. For the Social Democrats it is now a matter of actually getting their voters to the polls. In Clacton, Tory MP Giles Watling, 71, who previously held a comfortable majority, was bracing for a tough fight. He said mischievously that the first thing he wanted to do was show his new enemy a vision of the block. Indeed, Farage’s vision was long set on the post-election period and a Tory takeover, “Tea Party-style among Republicans in America,” as Professor Bale suspects.

Why can Farage become party leader and candidate overnight?

Because Reform UK is not an ordinary party, but an entity with Farage as the majority owner (53 per cent). A limited liability company established in November 2018 as “Brexit Party Limited”, located on Victoria Street, not far from the London train station of the same name. In the commercial register, the company’s purpose is “activities of political organisations”, while director Farage’s job title is “chairman of a political party”.

The approximately 30,000 “members” the “party” speaks of are actually contributors. It’s “an amazing model” because it enables quick decisions, said Ben Habib, the party’s vice president. Financial Times trust Professor Bale compares the structure to the Dutch PVV of right-wing populist and Muslim-hater Geert Wilders.