New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. The Staggers
26 July 2023

Never underestimate Nigel Farage

The former Brexit Party leader’s victory over Coutts bank has proved yet again what a potent campaigner he is.

By Freddie Hayward

Nigel Farage is arguably the most important British politician of the past decade. When he speaks, listen. His political storytelling, galvanising persona and understanding of the public have given him the power to shape what drives British politics, from the media to the two main parties.

It is no surprise, then, that a campaign he started in response to Coutts bank closing his account has resulted in Alison Rose, the chief executive of NatWest, Coutts’s owner, resigning. The furore has resulted in calls for tighter banking regulation to protect free speech. But there’s also an essential political lesson: people must stop underestimating Farage.

On the Today programme on 26 July, Nick Robinson suggested Farage’s campaign was really about positioning for a return to politics, not banking regulation. “There are people saying, ‘I know what this is about: he wants to get back into politics again.’ I know you’ve run seven times and lost seven times.” Farage interjected: “I’m really not going to have this. I’m sick to death of your condescending tone.” Robinson retreated and said he was simply teasing Farage, who replied: “What you should say to people is you’re the only person in British history who has won two national elections [the 2014 and 2019 European elections], leading two different parties [Ukip and the Brexit Party].” Quite.

Robinson dropped his patronising tone and asked whether Farage would return to politics, the obvious position being leader of Reform UK, the successor to the Brexit Party. Farage declined. That’s bad news for his former comrades, who are struggling to break through. As Ben Walker pointed out in Morning Call yesterday, Reform is hovering around 6 per cent in the polls, far below where Ukip stood in 2012.

There are two key things Reform is missing. First, a defining purpose such as Brexit. Deprived of this tectonic issue, Reform’s offer is a strange mixture of lower immigration and monetary policy reform. Second, the party is still grieving the loss of the political force that is Farage.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Farage is not returning to politics presently, but he is on the hunt for a new Goliath to defeat. Since the UK left the EU in 2020, he’s become a studied critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He’s lambasted what he sees as excessive green policies. And now the former commodities trader is raging against “an industry that we bailed out in 2008 after their greed and stupidity” (as he put it on Radio 4).

Farage is the master of channelling people’s anger towards a vague monolith, which in turn becomes a symbol, a host for people’s frustrations. With households enduring the longest peacetime living standards crisis since the Napoleonic era, frustration is percolating around the country, waiting for direction. Economic hardship breeds populism. Farage just needs a target.

[See also: Labour minister gets an apology over “no money” note – 13 years late]

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change

Topics in this article : , ,