Despite standing for election to the House of Commons seven times, and losing at every attempt, Nigel Farage is, arguably, the most successful British politician this century. As we noted in our recent Right Power List, which Farage topped, he has shaped government policy not only on Brexit but on net zero, small boats and “debanking”.
Farage’s recent appearance on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! has prompted renewed analysis of his political prospects. But what do the public make of him? The former Ukip leader is generally more disliked than liked, by a wide margin. But he enjoys favourable ratings from three in ten British voters and, among Tory supporters, this favourability extends to a majority (something that was not the case for David Cameron at the 2015 general election).
The Conservatives’ possible defeat to Labour in 2024 will either invite the party to engage in self-reflection or self-indulgence. The party membership will either recognise that they need to change to win and broaden their base, or they will gravitate towards figures who promise only to intensify their current ideological trajectory.
In Conservative Home’s monthly cabinet league, those who perform best among the (admittedly self-selecting) activists tend to come from the party’s right: Kemi Badenoch topped the most recent survey. Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, finished bottom with a rating of -25.4 (his worst yet). More than half of party members believed he was wrong to sack Suella Braverman as home secretary and, notably, Farage polls better among both Tory voters and Leavers than Sunak.
So what does all this mean? If the Tories are exiled from office, the party faithful may well choose self-indulgence over self-reflection. Members may believe there are more voters like them than there are. Farage is a base booster; he fires up pre-existing political sympathies. And among the new Tory base, which in some seats owes more to 2015 Ukip supporters than to the 2015 Conservatives, Farage undoubtedly has greater appeal than most cabinet ministers.
The Tory party isn’t what it used to be and, in recognition of that, it may well pursue a Faragiste direction in 2024, whether that be through ideological admiration or even the man himself.
[See also: The stench of Tory decay is overwhelming]