Thursday, 17 August 2017

Farage can return if he likes, but for what?

I get the impression, watching Nigel Farage on TV and occasionally listening to the more bearable parts of his LBC radio show, that he is convinced that his inevitable return to frontline politics will mean finding the magic recipe for an orderly hard Brexit. We should expect no less from a man of his arrogance. I can see it happening before 2017 is up, given the painfully poor progress made so far by our government. 

The argument doesn't lie in whether he will return. It lies in what he thinks his return can achieve and whether he'll be useful to negotiations or as some kind of pressuring mechanism for Number 10, ever-conscious of growing discontent over the potential of a so-called 'Brexit betrayal'. That phrase has already well and truly nestled itself under my skin. Notice how rarely it is used by people who actually have a clue about all this. 

I presume Mr Farage's return to the British political scene would entail retention of UKIP's leadership. I hear, given how woefully they performed at the General Election, they have a vacancy for the post. I'm sure nobody saw that coming. Some of their more combative spokesmen, including the likes of Michael Heaver, whose attempt at journalism over the past few months has been nothing short of hilarious, like to pretend that UKIP always had a future outside of the referendum, but our electoral system ensures that this is not the case. No other issue they try to pursue even remotely compares to the magnitude of Brexit. And that includes Islamic terror (my thoughts are with victims in Barcelona, on that note).  

The prodigal son can return if he likes, but he isn't capable of having the impact he had back in 2014/15. Initially, he was a useful battering ram, endeavouring to associate mass immigration with membership of the European Union (or, rather, the single market). It is hard to argue that he wasn't successful, but what is easy to argue is that his use in public debate was always going to be limited. Once he became a household name, that was it. He was too toxic to convince swaying or middle ground voters to opt for Brexit. If he had led the designated Leave campaign, I would probably be writing an entirely different blog right about now. 

His main use during the referendum was in rallying support amongst his already converted followers, trying to get them to turn up on the day. This he managed, but without an active referendum for him to participate in, it is very unclear what his purpose in coming back would be. Certainly there are more general elections to be held, but there is only so much a minor party can achieve on such a platform. UKIP will never again cause the Conservative Party much of a problem. They have issues of their own to sort out, starting with where their next inspiring leader will come from (Jacob Rees-Mogg is a bad idea, by the way). 

It is true that Mr Farage was such a leader, but it was aided hugely by the fact that, finally, a referendum was on the cards. As I have written previously at this blog, Farage's primary skill is oratory deception. He speaks simply and with energy, painting issues as black and white and scooping up the bewildered as he goes. This was precisely why I was at one stage so heavily influenced by him. Thankfully, though, this has vaccinated me against him in quite a powerful way. His antics are more transparent and much easier to expose. 

He's even using the wretched 'Brexit means Brexit' phrase, promising to come back to battle if his Brexit isn't delivered. Well, whose Brexit will be delivered? Must Brexit be stamped with his approval? What will he do exactly to ensure that his needs are satisfied, even if at the expense of diplomatic ties, economic stability or the productivity of negotiations. Mr Farage above anybody ought to have recognised the gravity of the Article 50 period, and indeed what it is we're trying to achieve. Once that result was announced last June, he became a smaller fish in a much larger and far more dangerous pond. 

Thanks in no small part to the infuriating myth that he was the man who made Brexit, Mr Farage has developed in his mind the idea that Britain's EU departure is his toy to play with. Away from politics, other children are playing with it and they are doing so incorrectly. But there's a problem. When he does decide to come back, what is his plan? There is no avenue through which he can influence anything significant. He is about as prepared for what is ahead as the next man. And about as useful in dealing with it too. 

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