The Brexit Party won the European elections, and much of that was down to Nigel Farage himself. The impact of the result will be felt by all the other political parties, whether they like it or not.
Trying to ‘disguise’ the election result but adding up the total of ‘remain’ vs ‘leave’ or comparing the Brexit Party result to the numbers signing the revoking Article 50 petition may make some people feel better. But it also means that they will be less inclined to learn the lessons of the result.
There has already been much comment about how Nigel 2.0 is much more serious and in control than he was as Ukip leader. He has also now had a chance to learn from what other politicians, not least Donald Trump, do well.
So, Farage now appears less inclined to go for the more extreme political rhetoric he offered, for instance, during the 2015 general election debates. Instead, he is sticking limpet-like to the Brexit betrayal messages. This is, in part, because this time around he wasn’t the underdog but was instead the favourite so didn’t feel the pressure to constantly grab attention.
He now uses the Trump playbook to great effect – blaming the mainstream media, elites, Westminster (as opposed to Washington), never giving ground and certainly never apologising for any previous statements or positions.
Farage is also being cleverer in his demands of government. Calling for his party to be involved in the Brexit negotiations is a complete non-starter but he knows it. Instead, it allows the party to maintain its purity and Nigel to continue to complain about detached elites.
The consequences of all this for our politics is far-reaching.
Keep it simple – we are in danger of losing all nuance from political messages or discussion. ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ (KISS) may be a well-established principle but Nigel has taken this to a new level. Even a tweet is too long for his approach. And it works.
Say what you mean – Nigel’s ‘common sense’ approach is in stark contrast to the apparent prevarication of leading MPs. It is a challenge to listen to many Ministerial interviews and really understand what they are saying, or getting Richard Burgon to answer a straight question.
Ignore the experts – There appears to be little need to counter what others say with evidence, instead simply dismiss their position or accuse them of being part of the establishment or elite.
Its national – The Brexit Party isn’t just a creature of certain parts of England. The size of the SNP win in Scotland and Labour coming fifth has meant that their coming second has been overlooked. So we are now looking at a party that can more accurately claim to be a national, UK-wide force (outside of London) having won nine out of 12 regions.
Beware the Lib Dem fightback - For all the obvious positives that the Lib Dems will take from the results, they have to know that that the support they have is very soft. They fought the last General Election on the same clear ‘remain’ platform but were completely stuffed. Of course, times change and they will soon have a new leader but this high point could be just that, a momentary blip. This was a completely guilt-free set of elections. Anyone could shift their vote as no-one thought the outcome really mattered anyway. Even high-profile supporters felt the need to show their parties what they really thought by voting for others even if they now face consequences….
Quite simply, if the Farage approach works then other politicians will follow. Of course, much of Farage’s success is also down to the abject failure of the more established parties. But his real contribution to future political debate is that of clarity. If others do not reflect this in the way that they campaign then Nigel will quite fancy his chances in a General Election.