Close links have been revealed between Steve Bannon, named the President-Elect’s chief strategist and senior counsellor yesterday, and Farage - and explain why one of the leading voices in the Brexit campaign was the first politician outside the US to meet Trump this weekend.
The appointment of Bannon, who ran Trump’s triumphant election campaign, prompted alarm from many who described the 62-year-old boss of the right-wing Breitbart news website as a “white nationalist” accused of holding anti-Semitic views, which he has denied.
Today, Downing Street made clear it will not be using Farage as a go-between across the Atlantic, telling journalists the Prime Minister did not need a “third person” to help her talk to the next US president.
But the Government will have to face up to the links ‘Team Farage’ has with Trump and his aides, and the relationship with Bannon appears to be central.
The Daily Mail today reports on the “riotous inside story” of the trip to Trump Tower, and how his group’s recent connection to Trump stems from Bannon inviting Farage to a political rally in Mississippi in August, an event where the nominee compared his rise to the Brexit win and appears to have been charmed by the Brit.
In Farage’s book, The Purple Revolution, published ahead of the 2015 general election, where he failed to win the South Thanet seat in Kent from the Tories, the MEP documents his long-standing admiration for Bannon. He writes:
“Breitbart is a smart media outfit, as is Steve Bannon, the former Goldman Sachs banker who runs it. He is certainly my sort of chap.
“He was in the US Navy and then advised the Pentagon on naval matters under Reagan. After that he joined Goldman Sachs where he worked on M&A. He then set up his own investment firm. Even before I discovered his views on Wall Street and big government, we had plenty in common.
“I certainly didn’t know him when I was in the City, but I began to follow him when he made the documentary Generation Zero in 2010, about the role of the Washington political class in the financial crisis two years before. It was pretty gripping stuff, and we were definitely singing from the same hymn sheet.”
The book later details Farage’s trip to the US to meet Republicans, Tea Party figures and the right-wing media in September 2014, with meetings scheduled by Bannon.
Amid a hectic schedule, Farage makes clear his unease when Bannon says he has “ordered some sandwiches”. He writes:
“Raheem (Kassam, sometime Farage associate and Breitbart founding editor in London) looked aghast. My feelings fell somewhere between panic and indignation.
“‘I know I’m a guest here, Steve,’ I said, ‘but I think it is about time we stopped for a proper lunch.’
“I refused to budge on it. Americans just don’t buy the idea that the working day can easily be done and dusted by 2pm. Steve just rolled his eyes and handed me his Amex card, which prompted me, Raheem and Matt (Richardson, then party general secretary) to joyously trot down to a New York steak house, tails up, and immediately get the wine list.
“Matt had a 27oz steak with a stack of onion rings - halfway through, he began to sweat profusely. It was a corker lunch.”
The link between Farage and Bannon is acknowledged by Arron Banks, the multi-millionaire businessman and Ukip donor who was at the New York summit, and was a key player in the pro-Brexit ‘Leave.EU’ campaign group.
Underlining the apparent close relationship, Banks told the Daily Telegraph tonight that Bannon will “run ideas” past Farage before discussing them with the Prime Minister. Banks said the pair spoke or texted each other “every day – they are best mates”. He said:
“There is no doubt about it that Steve Bannon will talk to Nigel Farage before any other British politician and run stuff by them.”
A piece in The Spectator last year reports how Bannon first took an interest in Ukip as he saw the party as the British equivalent of the Tea Party, which was once in the ascendency.