Magazine article Newsweek

How Nigel Farage Humiliated Britain's Political Class; Nigel Farage's UKIP Has Rocked Britain by Beating the Mainstream Parties at the Ballot Box

Magazine article Newsweek

How Nigel Farage Humiliated Britain's Political Class; Nigel Farage's UKIP Has Rocked Britain by Beating the Mainstream Parties at the Ballot Box

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Gimson

Nigel Farage has humiliated the British political class. By topping the poll in the European elections, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has placed himself at the head of a huge popular uprising.

Farage is a nationalist of a peculiarly English type. He feels most at home in the pub. If anyone asks to interview him, he is likely to suggest a meeting in the Marquis of Granby, a pub close to the BBC's headquarters in Westminster, near the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street. According to Farage, "every pub is a parliament." He uses these establishments not just to drink pints of beer but to display his credentials as a man of the people.

In any English pub, there will be drinkers who say the country is being betrayed by its greedy and treacherous politicians. This is precisely the line taken by Farage. With wit and spontaneity, he expresses the anger of the man in the pub who feels ordinary people have been ignored and taken for granted for many years.

The political establishment observed with alarm that Farage was on course to triumph in these elections and made great efforts to destroy him. His outspoken hostility to unrestricted immigration from the European Union was condemned as racism. When he said he would feel "concerned" if a group of Romanian men moved in next door to him, Farage was thought by some to have wrecked his chances. They were mistaken. The more mainstream politicians condemned Farage, the more he was seen by the man in the pub as a champion of free speech who would break through the blanket of political correctness that was being used to stifle debate on difficult subjects such as immigration.

Farage leads an insurgency that centers on three key themes: hostility to immigration, hostility to the European Union and hostility to Britain's political class. But if the UKIP's appeal were to be reduced to a single phrase, it would be "Life was better in the 1950s."

The image that UKIP supporters have of the 1950s may or may not be accurate. But to them, it was a golden age, when a working man could earn a good wage without having to compete against a lot of foreigners who would do the same work for a fraction of the pay. One of the things that baffles Farage's opponents is that he seems so old-fashioned. But this makes him fit to lead a rebellion against modernity. His followers doubt if they can ever prosper under modern conditions.

A typical UKIP activist might be a retired man in a blazer who used to be in the army and now lives on a barely adequate pension in a bungalow on the edge of an unfashionable seaside town. He was once a member of the Conservative Party, but cannot bear the metropolitan elite who now dominate the party, with its modish enthusiasm for causes like gay marriage.

But a large proportion of UKIP voters are also from the white working class, which feels that both the Labour and Conservative parties are now led by privileged members of the middle class who have never done a day's work outside of politics and have not the faintest idea what life outside Westminster is like. …

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