Letter from London: A Barrage of Farage in the Garage of Hell

Photograph Source: Gage Skidmore – CC BY-SA 2.0

The bad news over here last week was that former City of London metals trader Nigel Farage chose our very own South East London as his General Election launchpad last week. It was right by the river that he flip-flopped like a frogman into the giant garage-like Glaziers Hall, not just to announce he was standing as Reform UK’s parliamentary candidate for Clacton-on-Sea, a baffling 60 miles away in Essex, but also to declare himself brand new party leader. There was no good news.

As he spoke, a very British herring gull crossed the sky, leaving one envious of its ability to rise above it all. Politics has become such a plunge into darkness lately, it is like watching a diving cage go to hell. It should be remembered that some Brits hold Farage responsible for much that has gone wrong with this country — Farage and that other Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, who according to Tucker Carlson recently tried to charge a million dollars for an interview — so the idea of Farage offering up solutions for this country felt more than risible. Former Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is clear in her mind that what Farage is offering is division and hate. She said: ‘We’ve not recovered from his last disastrous experiment — let’s not fall for it a second time.’ Before its 2021 name-change, Reform UK used to be the Brexit party. Brexit, ladies and gentleman, is still that great unnamed game of shame which no politician in the land over here, let alone in this election, appears brave enough to utter. Not even Johnson, grunting from his well-padded lair, appears to want to celebrate it. To those of Farage’s supporters who say detractors like me therefore should go straight to Traitors’ Gate, I like to remind them that Farage has already been called out soberly by his teachers at Dulwich College as a ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’ or ‘neo-fascist’.

As it happens, only Stephen Flynn of the SNP (Scottish National Party) has grabbed the Brexit bull by the horns in this increasingly volatile election, or should that be grasped the Brexit nettle? Not even Nigel Farage, its greatest proponent, wants us to remember Brexit, Islam rather than Europe appearing to be his latest scapegoat instead. Mind you, why on earth would he mention something which would oblige him to admit blame for its failure? In fact, how come all Brexiteers don’t haul in the net once and for all aboard the good ship Britannia and count in front of us exactly how many metaphorical little British fishies they have caught of late? By the beginning of this year, according to a Cambridge Econometrics report, our departure from the EU has cost us some £140 billion ($178 billion), with an economic output of 6% less than if we had stayed in Europe. Not to mention its destabilising effect on Europe itself and the cultural desert created here back home. Indeed, this latest Farage barrage in the garage of hell was coming in so thick and fast, it was extraordinary not to hear a single British ounce of remorse or regret for the ownership — or emptiness — of the nation’s net. Our English gruppenführer had even promised earlier that there was insufficient time for him to mount a campaign following Sunak’s curveball of a last-minute July 4 election date. So what are we left to believe from the crisp conjurer?

What worries me most about Farage is this very serious and dangerous ability to collect under one banner so-called English patriots who believe strongly that UK Muslims are this country’s biggest threat. Give this man power and we have a problem, Houston. ‘We have a growing number of young people in this country who do not subscribe to British values,’ he declared over a week ago, ‘in fact loathe much of what we stand for. I think we see them on the streets of London every Saturday.’ When invited by Sky News to clarify if by this Farage meant Muslims, he replied that he did mean Muslims. As political comedian Jolyon Rubinstein said in response: ‘If Nigel Farage had used the word Jew instead of Muslim it would be leading every front page today.’

‘Media types,’ Farage likes to say disparagingly, referring to those who presumably wish to hold him to account. Just two words: ‘Media types,’ forgetting that even before the election Reform UK enjoyed disproportionate media attention, certainly for a party with an average of only 6% of voters in the 2023 local elections. Will such figures now be turbo-charged by Farage’s extraordinarily reignited self-confidence? He is like the noisy kid on the primary school bus who has just been told all the girls on the bus fancy him, though that may be pushing it a bit. In adult terms, he reminds me of a City man at the bar slightly in his cups with a packet of cigarettes to hand, droning on about the price of platinum, though that might go too much the other way.

Like Trump, the previous TV career ensures media-savviness. Farage is more than capable of unlocking the darkest of doors at the same time as misleading the public into believing suaveness means competence. What on earth can this burr in the saddle unleash if not hatred? He’s not even El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele with awkward promise of brutal overnight change followed by a crypto Shangri-Lah for everybody. He’s not the misleadingly rock-friendly Argentine President Javier Milei with his commitment to self-rewarding golden economic meteor storms. Farage doesn’t appear to have anything in terms of economic recovery, crazy or otherwise, up his sleeve. Nothing other than the possibility of a worrying alliance with the American insurance companies who have long been after our NHS. He is not selling us optimism. Division is the jewel in his wonky crown.

Running a country is not like running a press conference, I was left thinking as he finished up answering questions. What for Farage is political revolution is for others political revulsion. The only hope is that the British public see what is really going on here. There must be at least a morsel of hope when even well-known commentator Piers Morgan says this during one TV debate last week: ‘This audience hates Farage, just as the Question Time audience did last week. Remember that he came 3rd on I’m A Celebrity, losing to a retired boxer and someone I’d never heard of. His popularity is massively overstated.’ At the end of the day, alas, Farage probably suits a culture that has shed much of its poetry, lost most of its sense of adventure, and does not even know what kindness is anymore.

So who exactly is behind Reform UK and does the party have any real chance at power? At the beginning of the year the party’s biggest donor was said to be Christopher Harborne who by then had donated a reported £10 million to the Brexit/Reform party. Oddly enough, I may have met Christopher Harborne. This would have been over 40 years ago when he was either going up to Cambridge or already there — I was a friend of his popular sister. Do I not also recall a party around a large salad-heavy dinner table close to London’s Gloucester Road given by an elegant mother and possible film composer stepfather? Had they not been living in Greece? If this was Reform UK’s Christopher Harborne, I must say I remember this person as quiet and affable, not at all like a future multimillionaire with interests in aviation fuel, crypto investments, and controversial political parties. (Today he is said to be a fan of Ethereum and has said most of his net worth is in Ethereum.) I gather he now holds citizenship in both the UK and Thailand. He also has two names. The other is Chakrit Sakunkrit. He may also be suing a major US newspaper for defamation. It would be fascinating to see Christopher again if indeed it is him. He certainly doesn’t strike me as someone who would share some of the more extreme views of some of the party’s supporters.

After checking out an old photograph of a very young Nigel Farage walking alongside openly fascist National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, I thought I better check out what his recent employers at GB News were making of his announcement to stand. Inevitably, the tiresomely patriotic channel was as predictable as some of the ultranationalist comments at the foot of Tim Stanley’s online piece on Farage in the Telegraph. (‘I gave the Tories every chance to turn things around,’ wrote Farage in the Telegraph last weekend.) The GB News woman presenter was trying to suggest that far-right people were not really far-right, taking that old fake news trope to a whole new level. ‘There were Nazi chants at the far-right rally,’ complained her guest, a Jewish Labour MP. ‘What’s a Nazi salute?’ said the presenter rhetorically. Right, enough of that, I thought, switching it off. There is being informed and there is being envenomed. By now, five — five — parakeets were gathered in the tree outside. Farage would probably want them gone too. Psittacula krameri manillensis? They sound foreign — like ‘Bach’ or maybe even ‘Farage’ to some English xenophobes.

It should go without saying that much of what Farage does is straight out of the Trump songbook. They are famously close. Both had TV careers. Farage said last week he hadn’t spoken to his American friend about his last minute bid: ‘The Donald’s got other things to be dealing with just at this moment in time. He’s been rather busy, including joining TikTok,’ he said. I find it impossible to take Farage seriously when he sounds off about the special relationship. It makes mine feel more special. Naturally, after Sunak’s D-Day blunder when he departed Normandy early, Farage believes he can vacuum up all the veteran support he wants. However, ex-SAS hero Robin Horsfall has something to say about that: ‘Thanks Nigel for fighting so hard for Brexit. Thank you for preventing me from travelling freely across Europe. I am grateful that I can no longer simply work and live across the continent, buy a house, stay as long as I want and get the best medical care in the world. Thanks for saving me so much money. Thanks for my increased fuel prices, import taxes and food costs.’ Following Sunak’s mistake, Farage made sure he was filmed by an 18 year-old’s grave on ‘TikTok’. Watching the staged footage, I didn’t know which was worse. Forgetting the fallen like Sunak did or using the fallen like Farage. The last I saw of the Reform UK leader was footage of him telling everyone how much money was now pouring in to support him. There was that smile again, the one at the bar, the price of platinum and all.

Finally, Farage was attacked theatrically by a woman with a milkshake during his first appearance in Clacton-on-Sea, a seat which political commentator Tim Montgomerie now believes Farage will win (and possibly even the leadership of the Conservative Party after the election). Calmly leading Farage away from the milkshake episode was George Cottrell. In 2016, Cottrell was arrested by the FBI at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport while travelling in a show of support for Donald Trump with Farage. Cottrell was charged with offences such as extortion, bribery, and blackmail, which after plea-bargaining became a single charge of wire fraud and an eight-month jail sentence. According to Byline Times, Andy Wigmore, another long-time close associate of Farage’s, ‘passed confidential legal documents about the arrest to Sergey Fedichkin, an official at the Russian Embassy here in London, for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained.’

Fake news? Bad news for Blighty, certainly.

Peter Bach lives in London.