It was the great British politician Enoch Powell who said, "All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure." The political life of Nigel Farage, however, has defied Powell's maxim, with the UKIP leader choosing to end his career neither in failure nor in "midstream." The tremendous victory achieved by the Brexit vote a few days ago means that he has crossed over the river and achieved the one goal he always defined his career by.
Although much remains to be done to remove a UK enmeshed in the failing EU superstate, the comments made by important politicians and the general tone of events in recent days has made it clear that the political establishment has basically accepted the will of the people regarding Brexit, and not merely because of the democratic will, but because there are certain unmistakable advantages in Britain leaving the UK, economic and political.
As Sean Gabb has noted, it serves the interests of a Conservative Party that was always divided between Europhiles and Euroskeptics, a schism that played a key role in allowing the Labour Party back into government under Tony Blair in 1997, with all the attendant evils that that brought in its wake. So, Nigel can go into retirement, leaving the awkward details and tricky loose ends to "politicians," a species of creature he has never entirely identified with, as he made clear in his resignation speech:
"I came into politics from business because I believed this nation should be self-governing. I have never been, and I have never wanted to be a career politician. My aim in politics was to get Britain out of the European Union. That is what we voted for in that referendum two weeks ago. And that is why I feel that I've now done my bit."Thanks to Brexit, Farage will now be remembered as a uniquely successful politician, even while he distances himself from that classification.
But as we say goodbye to Nigel, how much can we attribute the Brexit vote to him? By being one of the few truly human and likeable politicians to take up the cause, he played an immense role, but we must also remember the part that other factors played. UKIP achieved its prominence essentially as a safety valve to diminish support for the nationalist BNP. While the BNP's real nationalism was vilified and demonized, the media and the establishment encouraged UKIP as a relatively safe – and unracist – outlet for nationalist sentiments.
With its roots in the libertarian business class, of which Farage is an example, this nationalist lite alternative accordingly ate more into the Euroskeptic wing of the Conservative Party than the Labour vote, which had been much more threatened by the rise of the BNP. In fact, by helping to undermine the BNP, UKIP in its own way helped to strengthen Labour.
Thanks to the appeal UKIP had for Euroskeptic Conservative voters, Cameron was forced to counter by conceding a referendum on the many treaty changes made by the EU. Furthermore, Cameron, in his resolve to win this vote for his EU masters, combined it with a vote on leaving the EU, a measure which he thought would ensure his victory. Such Machiavellian calculations seemed justified as Cameron's polling revealed that, while the British public were greatly dissatisfied with the EU, a comfortable majority preferred to remain in the EU, fearing the inevitable dislocation that would result from an exit.
It was only thanks to the crass stupidity of Angela Merkel – and admittedly other European nations, such as the Greeks – in creating the migrant crisis that things swung against the EU in the minds of British voters. In short, Farage's success was based on the fortuitous mistakes of a scheming British PM and a childless German Chancellor, haunted by WWII guilt – a combination of perfidious Albion and Teutonic twattishness on a continental scale.
But through it all, there was Nigel, with his easy humour and down-to-earth common sense, widening the breach in the dam built to contain the will of the British people, finally breaking it open on June 23rd, 2016, a day that will go down in the annals of freedom.
Now, with its best political asset gone, UKIP will stagger on for a while, driven by the career politicians it has attracted. It may attempt to rebrand itself and find new causes, but almost anything it does will reveal its effective redundancy in the aftermath of achieving its defining cause. This, combined with the delicious disarray in the Labour Party, means interesting times are ahead for British politics. This too may be remembered as one of Nigel's legacies, but, in effect, it is more a testament to the largely random nature of politics and human destiny.
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