- 1 Background
- 2 Political stances
- 3 UKIP leadership and resignations
- 4 Timeline – notable events
- 4.0.1 1999 European Parliament
- 4.0.2 2005 Stance against corruption
- 4.0.3 2010 – Herman Van Rompuy
- 4.0.4 2010 UK General Election
- 4.0.5 2012 – Campaign against Irish fiscal treaty
- 4.0.6 2012 – London mayoral and local elections
- 4.0.7 2013 – local elections
- 4.0.8 2014 – European election
- 4.0.9 2015 – UK general election
- 4.0.10 2015 – resignation announced
- 4.0.11 2016 – Referendum on Britain’s membership of the E.U.
- 4.0.12 UKIP Tameside thanks Nigel for his belief, determination and whole-hearted commitment to fighting for democracy.
- 4.0.13 We also have a video tribute here which is aimed to show the breadth of his work during his political career so far.
Nigel Paul Farage was born in Downe, England on 3 April 1964. From 1975 to 1982, he was educated at Dulwich College, an independent school with a wide social mix in south London, and in his autobiography he pays tribute to the careers advice he received there from England Test cricketer John Dewes, “who must have spotted that I was quite ballsy, probably good on a platform, unafraid of the limelight, a bit noisy and good at selling things”. On leaving school in 1982, he decided not to go to university, but to work in the City, trading commodities at the London Metal Exchange, initially joining the American commodity operation of brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. He transferred to Credit Lyonnais Rouse in 1986, Refco in 1994, and Natexis Metals in 2003.
He was active in the Conservative Party from his school days, having seen a visit to his school by Enoch Powell and Keith Joseph. However, he voted for the Green Party in 1989 because of what he saw as their then “sensible” and Eurosceptic policies. He left the Conservatives in 1992 in protest at the government’s signing of the Treaty on European Union at Maastricht, under John Major, and became a founding member of UKIP in 1993.
After unsuccessfully campaigning in European and Westminster parliamentary elections for UKIP since 1994, he was elected MEP for South East England in the 1999 European Parliament election, and was subsequently re-elected in 2004, 2009 and 2014. He co-chairs the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (formerly “Europe of Freedom and Democracy”) group. He has been noted for his sometimes controversial speeches in the European Parliament and has strongly criticised the euro currency.
From taking office as a UKIP MEP in 1999, Farage has often voiced opposition to the “euro project”. His argument is that “a one-size-fits-all interest rate” cannot work for countries with structurally different economies, often using the example of Greece and Germany to emphasise contrast.
He strongly opposes the use of bailouts and says that “buying your own debt with tax payers’ money” will not solve the problem and that, “if we do, the next debt crisis won’t be a country…it will be the European Central Bank itself”.
On the issue of welfare, he wants migrants to live in the UK for five years before being able to claim benefits, and for them to be ineligible for tax credits. He believes that tax avoidance is caused by “punitive tax rates”, and wants “fairer” taxes as a way to prevent it.
Farage declared himself personally in favour of the Alternative Vote system of May 2011, saying first-past-the-post would be a “nightmare” for UKIP. The party’s stance has to be decided by its central policy-making committee, although he has personally expressed a preference for the AV+ system as it “would retain the constituency link and then also the second ballot ensured there were no wasted votes”. After the 2015 general election, in which UKIP took a lower proportion of seats than votes, he called the first-past-the-post voting system (FPTP) “totally bankrupt”, although Farage claims “I completely lost faith in [FPTP] in 2005 when Blair was returned with a 60 seat majority on 36 per cent of the vote, or 22 per cent if you factor in low turnout.”
Energy and the environment
Farage has criticised the shutting down of coal-fired power stations and has opposed the policy of creating wind farms as covering “Britain in ugly disgusting ghastly windmills”. In a speech made to the European parliament on 11 September 2013, he cited news, reported in several Rupert Murdoch-owned papers and the Daily Mail that the Arctic Sea ice cap had apparently grown from 2012 to 2013, claiming that this was evidence of decades “of Euro-federalism combined with an increasing Green obsession”.
Farage takes an anti-prohibitionist position on recreational drugs. In an April 2014 phone-in interview hosted by The Daily Telegraph he argued that the War on Drugs had been lost “many, many years ago”, stating that “I hate drugs, I’ve never taken them myself, I hope I never do, but I just have a feeling that the criminalisation of all these drugs is actually not really helping British society.” He argued in favour of a Royal Commission on drugs exploring all avenues as how to most effectively legislate on drugs and deal with their related criminal and public health problems, including the possibility of their legalisation.
According to Farage, the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces is “silly and illiberal”; he recommends separate smoking areas along the lines of some German states. He believes that banning things makes them more attractive to children, and said that “Obesity is killing more people than smoking, you could ban chip shops, you could ban doughnuts. The point is we are big enough and ugly enough to make our own decisions”.
In his 2015 book, he reflected that based on his experiences, “the NHS is so over-stretched that if you can afford private health care, you should take it, particularly for diagnostics and preventative medicine. In the NHS, the system is so battered and poorly run that unless you are really lucky, you will fall through the cracks. The NHS is, however, astonishingly good at critical care. But what testicular cancer taught me is that the NHS will probably let you down if you need screening, fast diagnosis and an operation at a time that suits you”. He supports reform within the NHS, saying that its resources have become stretched due to increased immigration, and blaming Labour for high costs of new hospitals built through private finance initiatives.
He says that money which the NHS could spend on treating taxpayers with serious conditions is instead spent on recent immigrants with HIV, an opinion which has been controversial. A YouGov poll found 50 per cent of those taking part to support Farage, with 37 per cent saying that he is scaremongering.
Farage has said that he supports Muslim immigrants who integrate to British society, but is against those who are “coming here to take us over”, citing John Howard’s Australia as a government to emulate in that regard. He told a Channel 4 documentary in 2015 that there is a “fifth column” of Islamic extremists in the United Kingdom. He has said that the “basic principle” of Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood speech” was correct.
In a 2014 interview on the LBC radio station, he said that he would feel “concerned” if a group of Romanian men moved next door to him. When interviewer James O’Brien inquired what would be the difference between Romanian men moving next door and a group of German children, in reference to Farage’s German wife and children, he replied: “You know the difference.” He later expanded on this on the UKIP website, explaining that “if we were able to operate a proper work permit scheme for Romanian nationals, with suitable checks, as recommended by UKIP, then nobody would need to be concerned if a group of Romanian nationals moved in next door to them.”
Farage called on the British government in 2013 to accept more refugees from the Syrian Civil War. He later clarified that those refugees should be of the country’s Christian minority, due to the existence of nearer Muslim-majority safe countries. During the ensuing migration crisis, Farage alleged that the majority of people claiming to be refugees were economic migrants, and that some were Islamic State militants.
Farage is critical of Britain’s involvement in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and cited their financial and human expenses and poor outcomes as reasons for Britain to not become involved militarily in Syria. He has expressed fears that rebel forces in Syria may be Islamic extremists. He said about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that “Nobody should forget that the most devastating direct consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been suffered by the likes of Mr Blair, but by the civilian populations of these countries and of course by our own brave service personnel”. Farage stated that migrant exodus from Libya had been caused by NATO military intervention, approved by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, in the civil war in Libya.
He has criticized Britain’s close ties with Saudi Arabia. He said: “I think we need a complete re-appraisal of who Saudi Arabia are, what our relationship with them is, and stop extremist talk turning the minds of young, male Muslims in this country.”
When asked in 2014 which leaders he admired, he said “As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin. The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?”. He has criticised what he sees as EU militarism agitating western Ukrainians against Russia. Later, in 2015, he said about Putin that “The European Union, and the West, view Putin as the devil. They want to view Putin as the devil. I’m not saying I want take him around for tea and meet mum on Sunday afternoon … But the point is, on this bigger overall battle [against ISIS in Syria] we need to start recognizing we’re on the same side”.
On the subject of the 2016 US presidential election, Farage said in the middle of May that he had reservations on the views and character of Donald Trump, but would vote for him to prevent Hillary Clinton becoming president.
In 2014, Farage said that it is UKIP policy for handguns in the UK to be legalised and licensed, describing the current legislation, brought in after the Dunblane school massacre, as “ludicrous”. He has also said that there was no link between responsible handgun ownership and gun crime.
UKIP leadership and resignations
On 12 September 2006, Farage was elected leader of UKIP with 45 per cent of the vote. He pledged to bring discipline to the party and to maximise UKIP’s representation in local, parliamentary and other elections. In a PM programme interview on BBC Radio 4 that day he pledged to end the public perception of UKIP as a single-issue party and to work with allied politicians in the Better Off Out campaign, committing himself not to stand against the MPs who have signed up to that campaign.
In his maiden speech to the UKIP conference in October 2006, he told delegates that the party was “at the centre-ground of British public opinion” and the “real voice of opposition”. He said: “We’ve got three social democratic parties in Britain – Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative are virtually indistinguishable from each other on nearly all the main issues” and “you can’t put a cigarette paper between them and that is why there are nine million people who don’t vote now in general elections that did back in 1992.”
Farage at the UKIP Conference in 2009
He stood again for the UKIP leadership in 2010 (having stood down the year before, to focus on his campaign in the Buckingham election, albeit unsuccessfully) after his successor Lord Pearson had stood down, and on 5 November 2010 it was announced he had won the leadership contest.
In May 2014 Farage led UKIP to win the EU Election with 4,376,635 votes, the first time a UK political party other than Labour or Conservatives had won a national election in over 100 years. He was returned as MEP for the South East region, a seat he has represented since 1999.
On 8 May 2015, he resigned as leader of UKIP after he failed to win the seat of Thanet South in the general election held the previous day, although he kept open the possibility of re-entering the ensuing leadership contest. In his autobiography, The Purple Revolution, he had written:
“It is frankly just not credible for me to continue to lead the party without a Westminster seat….Was I supposed to brief Ukip policy from the Westminster Arms? No – if I fail to win South Thanet, it is curtains for me. I will have to step down.”
However just three days later, it was announced that Farage would continue to serve as the party’s leader after a unanimous decision by UKIP’s national executive committee to reject the letter of resignation and persuade Farage to continue, stating that the election campaign had been a ‘great success’.
Farage resigned as UKIP leader on 4 July 2016 with the following comment, “During the [Brexit] referendum I said I wanted my country back … now I want my life back” and added that this resignation was final: “I won’t be changing my mind again, I can promise you”, apparently referring to his two previous resignations (in 2009 and 2015). Few people appreciate he had been working and travelling virtually 100 hours per week for over two years leading up to the referendum.
Writing in The Spectator, the journalist Rod Liddle described Farage as “the most important British politician of the last decade and the most successful. His resignation leaves a hole in our political system. With enormous intelligence and chutzpah and a refreshingly unorthodox approach, he built UKIP up from nothing to become established as our third largest party and succeeded in his overriding ambition – to see the UK vote to leave the European Union.” Farage was ranked second in The Daily Telegraph’s Top 100 most influential right-wingers poll in October 2013, behind Prime Minister David Cameron. He was also named “Briton of the Year” by The Times in 2014.
As of October 2016, UKIP are re-electing a replacement leader. Until that new leader is registered with the Electoral Commission, Farage is still technically leader of the party.
Timeline – notable events
1999 European Parliament
Farage was elected to the European Parliament in 1999 and re-elected in 2004, 2009 and 2014. He is presently the leader of the 24-member UKIP contingent in the European Parliament, and co-leader of the multinational Eurosceptic group, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy. Farage was ranked the fifth most influential MEP by Politico in 2016, who described him as, “one of the two most effective speakers in the chamber.”
2005 Stance against corruption
In early 2005, Farage requested that the European Commission disclose where the individual Commissioners had spent their holidays. The Commission did not provide the information requested, on the basis that the Commissioners had a right of privacy. The German newspaper Die Welt reported that the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, had spent a week on the yacht of the Greek shipping billionaire Spiros Latsis. It emerged soon afterwards that this had occurred a month before the Commission under Barroso’s predecessor Romano Prodi approved 10.3 million euros of Greek state aid for Latsis’s shipping company. It also became known that Peter Mandelson, then the British EU Commissioner, had accepted a trip to Jamaica from an unrevealed source.
He persuaded around 75 MEPs from across the political divide to back a motion of no confidence in Barroso, which would be sufficient to compel Barroso to appear before the European Parliament to be questioned on the issue. The motion was successfully tabled on 12 May 2005, and Barroso appeared before Parliament at a debate on 26 May 2005. The motion was heavily defeated. A Conservative MEP, Roger Helmer, was expelled from his group, the European People’s Party – European Democrats (EPP-ED), in the middle of the debate by that group’s leader Hans-Gert Poettering as a result of his support for Farage’s motion.
2010 – Herman Van Rompuy
After the speech of Herman Van Rompuy on 24 February 2010 to the European Parliament, Farage – to protests from other MEPs – addressed the former Belgian Prime Minister and first long-term President of the European Council saying that he had the “charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of low grade bank clerk.” He questioned the legitimacy of Van Rompuy’s appointment, asking “Who are you? I’d never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you.” He also asserted that Van Rompuy’s “intention [is] to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and of the European nation states.” Van Rompuy commented afterwards, “There was one contribution that I can only hold in contempt, but I’m not going to comment further.” After refusing to apologise for behaviour that was, in the words of the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, “inappropriate, unparliamentary and insulting to the dignity of the House”, Farage was reprimanded and had his right to ten days’ allowance (expenses) “docked”.
Farage was told “You cannot talk like that about a President of the European Council, he is not elected.” to which he replied “Yes, that’s the point I was making.”
2010 UK General Election
Farage stood against sitting Buckingham MP, John Bercow, the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, despite the convention that the Speaker, as a political neutral, is not normally challenged in his or her bid for re-election by any of the major parties.
Farage came third with 8,401 votes. Bercow was re-elected and in second place with 10,331 votes was John Stevens, a former Conservative MEP who campaigned as an independent accompanied by “Flipper the Dolphin” (a reference to MPs flipping second homes).
Injury in air crash
On 6 May 2010, the morning of the election, Farage was travelling in a two-seater aircraft with a pro-UKIP banner attached, when the plane crashed. He suffered injuries that were described as non-life-threatening. Although his injuries were originally described as minor, his sternum and ribs were broken and his lung punctured. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said that the aeroplane was towing a banner, which caught in the tailplane, forcing the nose down.
2012 – Campaign against Irish fiscal treaty
In May 2012 Farage was interviewed by Karen Coleman of the Irish Independent about the campaign in Ireland against the Irish fiscal treaty. Ireland had no anti-EU MEPs and according to Pat Gallagher MEP, UKIP’s involvement was counterproductive as “Irish voters strongly dislike foreigners like Mr Farage telling them how to vote.” Coleman who believed the campaign had “little to do with what’s best for Ireland” described the campaign as “particularly egregious”.
2012 – London mayoral and local elections
UKIP forgot to put their party name on their candidate’s ballot paper for the London mayoral election, 2012, Laurence Webb appearing as “A fresh choice for London.” Farage described the mistake as an internal error. Interviewed the following Sunday by Andrew Neil and asked about “the game plan”, Farage welcomed the “average 13% vote” across the country, and stated that the party was preparing for county council elections in 2013, European elections in 2014 and a general election in 2015.
Farage at the opening of the UKIP office in Basingstoke, in 2012
Asked what would happen to UKIP if the Conservatives made a manifesto commitment to a European Referendum, Farage said they had already failed to honour a “cast iron” commitment for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Challenging Farage’s viewpoint, Neil said that UKIP aspired to come top of the European elections, but while UKIP wanted to join the big time they were still seen as “unprofessional, amateur and even unacceptable.” In an interview, he described Baroness Warsi as “the lowest grade Chairman the Tory Party has ever had.” He was voted politician of the year by the online service MSN.
2013 – local elections
In May 2013 Farage led UKIP to it’s best-ever performance in a UK election. The party received 23 per cent of the vote in the local elections, winning 147 council seats, and placing it only 2 points behind the governing Conservative party and 9 points ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Farage was mobbed by well-wishers as he made his way to his favourite pub, the Marquis of Granby, for a celebratory drink. He called the victory “a real sea change in British politics”. Subsequently, polling agency Survation found that 22 per cent of voters intended to support UKIP in the 2015 General Election.
2014 – European election
In a second visit to Edinburgh in May 2014 he correctly predicted that UKIP would win a Scottish seat in the elections. Two hundred protesters heckled and booed him. Thirty police in two vans were needed to preserve order.
In the European Parliament elections in 2014, he led UKIP to win the highest share of the vote. It was the first time a political party other than the Labour Party and Conservative Party has won the popular vote in a national election since the 1906 general election. It is also the first time a party other than the Labour and Conservatives won the largest number of seats in a national election since the December 1910 general election.
2015 – UK general election
In October 2013, Farage announced on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that he would stand for election as an MP at the United Kingdom general election, 2015, most likely contesting either Folkestone and Hythe or South Thanet; meanwhile he stated that his duty and preference was to focus on his current role as an MEP.
In August 2014 he was selected as the UKIP candidate for South Thanet following local hustings. On 12 September 2014, he appeared at a pro-union rally with Scottish UKIP MEP David Coburn ahead of Scotland’s independence referendum.
In October 2014, he was invited to take part in prospective Leaders’ debates on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky ahead of the 2015 General Election. UKIP indicated that it would consider taking legal action were the party excluded, in contravention of established broadcast media rules, from televised Party Leaders’ debates in advance of the 2015 General Election. The 7-way leaders’ TV debate was broadcast by ITV on 2 April 2015 from MediaCityUK, Salford Quays. Of three polls taken immediately afterwards, the ComRes poll had Farage as joint winner, alongside Labour’s Ed Miliband and Conservative David Cameron.
In March 2015, Farage declared in his book The Purple Revolution that he would step down as UKIP leader should he not be elected as an MP; he stated his belief that it would not be “credible” for him to lead UKIP without sitting in parliament at Westminster.
On 22 March 2015, Farage was targeted by anti-UKIP activists who chased him and his family from a pub lunch in Downe, Kent. His daughters ran away to hide and were later found to be safe. Farage, when asked what he thought about the incident, called the protesters “scum”.
2015 – resignation announced
Farage was unsuccessful in his bid to become MP for South Thanet and announced his resignation as the leader of UKIP, citing that he is a “man of his word” since he promised to resign if he did not win his seat. However, on 11 May 2015, the party chairman said they would not accept Mr Farage’s post-election resignation because the party’s “election campaign had been a great success”.
2016 – Referendum on Britain’s membership of the E.U.
The referendum was of course the pinnacle of Nigel Farage’s campaign and fight for democracy for over 23 years. The E.U. had become an increasingly totalitarian, anti-democratic united states, and the campaign against it had very clear benchmarks: a rejection of the Single European market, superiority of E.U. law over British law, uncontrolled migration, and any form of half-way house associate membership. There were plenty of other concerns such as fishing rights in territorial waters, the development of an E.U. army, and the E.U.’s proposed TTIP deal with the U.S.
Nigel continues to be committed to his duties as an M.E.P. until Britain finally withdraws from the E.U.