When a story begins “Nigel Farage quit...”, the logical follow-up question is, “from what this time?” In recent years the on-again, off-again Ukip star and erstwhile leader seems to spend quite a bit of time telling anyone who will listen what he’s not doing.
Most recently, the long-serving eurosceptic politician, who remains an MEP for the time being, announced that he would be leaving Ukip (remember them?) on the grounds that its present leadership, under the guidance of someone called Gerard Batten (thank you, Google), has made the party a home for extremist views and a node of disreputable associations.
The event that has ostensibly triggered Mr Farage’s latest resignation seems to have been the decision of Mr Batten to join forces with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who, for the sake of familiarity I’ll call by his alias “Tommy Robinson” in the paragraphs which follow) for an upcoming Brexit rally. Apparently, Mr Farage feels that by associating with the far-right activist, former EDL thug, convicted criminal, and, most hilariously, flouter of another country’s immigration laws, the “image” of his once beloved party has been tarnished. Hence the reason that the the former City trader announced, albeit with a “heavy heart”, that he was resigning from Ukip.
On the face of it, Farage’s reasons for leaving the dwindling, and seemingly now pointless, political party are sound. If an organisation that one is associated with begins to get involved with such undesirable elements as Robinson and becomes imbued with a religious zeal against a minority faith, as Farage himself alluded to, then it becomes imperative the one terminates their association with that organisation immediately - the defiance of such prejudice and poor decision-making, in the words of Gwendolyn from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, “ceases to be a moral duty, it becomes a pleasure” at that point. Essentially, one may conclude that, by leaving Ukip, Nigel Farage has made, prima facie, a good decision.
However, if this is the case, then why does this gesture feel so completely hollow, disposable, contemptible, and ripe for derision and disbelief?
Maybe because that’s exactly what it is - a gesture. In political terms, ‘The Nigel Farage Show’ is well and truly in its final, painfully drawn-out, encore. The former Ukip boss, as that title would suggest, has dedicated his entire political career to getting Britain out of the EU and now that is happening, regardless of how Brexit succeeds, fails, or, most realistically, just happens, his potential gains are lower than ever. He’s done and surely realises, he is a very astute man after all, that there is no political capital to be made from being with Ukip anymore. When Ukip was a serious party it was always criticised for being ‘The Nigel Farage Show’ and now that the show is nearly over, the eponymous star will surely want his name removed from the marquee before many more damning reviews are published.
Mr Farage’s self-preservation instincts might also explain the timing of this most recent departure in the series. Even the most lackadaisical observer of British politics cannot have failed to notice that Ukip, and by extension its most prominent draw in Mr Farage, has a track record when it comes to making controversial statements and insulting specific groups of people.
Whether it’s Romanians, people living with HIV, women who choose to breastfeed, or the litany of other groups he has derided thoughtlessly Mr Farage has made a name for himself by being the kind of person who apologises for, or advocates on behalf of, the kind of people who think it’s okay to call other people nasty names. With this record being beyond a reasonable doubt, the question remains - what the hell took you so long to realise that Ukip was a home for people who had these views, Nige?
Fundamentally, this is why it’s difficult to accept that Nigel Farage’s most recent resignation from Ukip is based on any significant principle whatsoever. Whether he’s writing unsubstantiated numbers on the sides of buses or telling bold-faced lies about the strain on the UK’s immigration system - Mr Farage has shown himself to be an opportunistic, principle-less, and shallow political operator who will court repeatedly the very worst in British public opinion. To accept that he has had some kind Damascene moment requires a level of credulity that one would hope the British people are incapable of, and one can only hope that he will now slink off into political irrelevance with only his book, broadcasting airtime, money, and record of damage to our national political discourse he has caused to keep him company; after all, he’s proved he doesn’t have any morals or scruples to do that.