NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Nigel Farage delivered a barnstorming speech to an empty room on Thursday, telling several banks of chairs the West must "stand firm" and defend its "Judeo-Christian culture."
The Ukip leader, in America to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference some 20 miles from a frosty Washington D.C., told attendees that had Britain and the US not stood together during the Second World War, "much of the world would not be free." He then reaffirmed both nations' shared heritage in "common law, not Sharia law."
"We must stand up and fight for liberty, freedom and democracy and not be cowed by political correctness," he thundered to a deserted ballroom, adding: "We have all in the West mistakenly and in a cowardly manner pursued a policy of multiculturalism, rather than pursuing a policy in which we all come together."
Explaining Ukip’s success in the UK, the prospective parliamentary candidate for South Thanet said that his party had come to "represent a group of people completely left behind," blaming corporatism for the disenfranchisement of a great swathe of the UK electorate.
"We [Ukip] have become the party that stands for aspiration," he told the vacated space. “Over-regulation and big global politics aren’t working… Ukip has crossed the class divide of UK politics.”
Daring to dip his toe in the piranha-infested waters of American politics, Farage chided the current Republican leadership for failing to appeal to the type of "patriotic" and "aspirational" voters that Ronald Reagan once inspired.
His warm-up act was erstwhile vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. It was ironic quirk of the schedule; the Englishman offered an unsubtle warning against the extremism that has come to characterise much of the American conservative movement over the past decade: "If the Republican party is to win the next presidential election, it needs to get the people voting for it that were doing so 30 years ago… and I don’t think the Republican Party is attracting those kind of people."
He also took issue with foreign policy decisions made by Washington and London, governments he lamented were "joined at the hip." Farage said: "We’ve been engaged in an endless series of overseas wars and it’s time to asses whether that has been successful."
The Ukip leader told the desolate hall: "Every time we invade [a country], we’re told it is to make the streets of London and New York safe. Far from doing that, we’ve actually stoked the flames of militant Islamism.” He then assured the small American crowd that he wasn't blaming them, calling the Islamic State the "greatest threat to the free world today."
Farage said that defeating IS militants would not be done with American or British troops, but by regional armies with "boots on the ground."
The Ukip chief left the conference destined for the less savage temperatures of Margate and his own party conference ahead of May's crucial vote. Farage earlier indicated that he had come to America to learn how to win elections. Yet at a convention that prominently featured Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, the Ukip leader may well have taken a wrong turn somewhere over the Atlantic.