Having spent all of 30 minutes with UKIP leader Nigel Farage it was clear to see the passion and determination he has for driving his party forward. Speaking candidly and openly about himself, the progression of UKIP and the current state of British politics, Farage is as ambitious and hard working as they come.
Born on April 3 1964, Farage was educated at Dulwich College in London, before becoming a commodity broker in the city. It was here where he began to make a name for himself, successfully running his own brokerage business between the early 1990s and 2002.
Farage’s early political background and ties were with the Conservative Party, however, he disassociated himself with the party when Prime Minister John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. In 1993, Farage became one of the founding members of the UK Independence Party and just six years later he was elected a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South East region of England. He and elected UKIP members Jeffrey Titford and Michael Holmes formed a grouping called the Europe of Democracies and Diversities.
Though, perhaps, UKIP’s most significant breakthrough came in the 2004 elections to the European parliament as they gained twelve seats and won more votes than the Liberal Democrats. Success in the same elections during 2009 followed as UKIP won thirteen seats and finished in second position in terms of votes to the Conservative Party across the UK. Farage now leads the group of UKIP MEPs and he co-chairs the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group alongside Italian MEP Lega Nord. The group is made up of around thirty Eurosceptic MEPs from different countries.
In late 2009, Farage resigned as leader of UKIP in order to stand in the forthcoming 2010 general election against the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, in his Buckingham constituency. Although he did not manage to unseat Bercow, Farage finished with 8’401 votes, the highest ever for UKIP in a general election. Astonishingly, on the morning of May 6 2010, Farage was involved in a plane crash and suffered minor head injuries. He declared that he must be “the luckiest man alive” after surviving the accident.
Farage is regularly invited to be a keynote speaker at public meetings across Britain, organised by local branches of UKIP, which campaigns for Britain to withdraw from the European Union.
Transcript of audio interview recorded with Stuart Appleby on Monday 19th September at 6:45pm before the UKIP leader took part in an hour long public meeting at the Lyndhurst Community Centre, Hampshire.
Nigel Farage On…
How UKIP are making inroads into the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour vote
“We’ve taken our vote from a huge cross section of people. Starting with traditional Tories, patriotic old Labour supporters and classic Liberals. This is on top of the people who have felt left outside the whole political process. We’ve always picked up our vote from across the spectrum. I think the difference now is that for most of UKIP’s existence we have had an opposition Conservative party so people have said look Nigel ‘we agree with you mate but the priority is to get Labour out, once the Tories are in you’ll see just you wait until David Cameron gets in’ people used to say to me, well David is in.
“I think there are two things that are becoming clear. One of course is that he has broken every promise that he has made on some of the big ticking issues. And the second thing is I think people are doubting whether he ever meant some of his pledges in the first place. People try to use the coalition as a fig leaf but actually on things like the referendum this is him, nothing to do with (Nick) Clegg. My feeling is, especially in this part of England (South East), you’ve got vast numbers of Conservative voters who are basically patriotic but in a very kind of English sort of way. They believe in the country and they are basically all Eurosceptic.”
The progression of UKIP at Local Government level
“I think at local government level the progression has been slower than I would have wanted but I think we are progressing. I think the Barnsley by-election was very, very interesting. We came second, we got as many votes as the coalition partners combined and I think right now UKIP has huge potential, particularly with that old patriarchal Tory vote. These voters had occasionally lent their vote to us in Euro elections but could never bring themselves to vote UKIP in local elections or general elections. I think that market is now up for grabs.
“Tory MPs and councillors in the country know that. I think they’re absolutely terrified of what we can do to them and that is why you’ve got this rebellion going on in Westminster. Much of that rebellion is insincere, much of it is merely posturing. There are some really committed people who now do take the same lines we take on many, many things and I applaud those people for their courage in doing so.”
“Our opinion poll ratings are steadily going up and up and up. However, with general elections being first past the post, we know the problem we’ve got. Still the 6,7% we’re on is up on the 1% we were five years ago. We know in the Euro’s they come and vote for us but that vote is now hardening and coming in all forms of election so my mission is to get out and around the country and do as much as I possibly can to strengthen this. All of that relates to all the media stuff I do. I do a lot of radio and television but I don’t ignore local communities because I think they are very important. That’s the human thing, we’ve met the bloke, we’ve shaked his hand, we believe in what he is saying.”
UKIP in 2011
“2011 is the year in which everything we’ve ever stood for and derided for has now become mainstream, that’s what I would say. And if Cameron and co don’t seriously respond to us, not with words but with actions, then we’re going to see a bit of a change in British politics.
“A key area for us is closing the gap between us and the Liberal Democrats. If you look at the opinion polls in the North of England we are consistently ahead of them. We have been ahead of them in a couple of polls in London as well. We’ve been ahead of them amongst 18-24 year-olds on a couple of occasions so there are a few areas where we are beginning to chink past them. Overall, nationally, to get past them there’s a fair bit more to do. But are we challenging them for the third party? Yes, I think we are.
“At the moment there is a clear lack of faith in the entire political class and that really, apart the odd issue, the differences between them (parties) are absolutely minute. This is to the extent of which we’re becoming governed from elsewhere and that is now becoming apparent to everybody. UKIP can no longer be portrayed as standing in the corner with our feet kicking and screaming – actually what we are demanding is a better future for our businesses and peoples job prospects. We are now painting the way forward to a positive future. I want people to see that vision and see what we’re really all about.”
The voters loss of faith in British politics
“The British voter has lost faith in politics. Deference is dead when it comes to politics and as I say I think faith in the Liberal democrats has snapped like an elastic band, the faith in Labour wore thin because of the wars and the way the finances have been handled and I think the faith in the Tories is now under question – in a way that it’s never been before from their own people.”
Being UKIP leader
“I think I’m a workaholic. It is very intensive but I love it. I enjoy it and I’ve always enjoyed it. I even enjoy the days when everyone thought we were bad, I enjoyed it then because I thought no we’re actually going to be proved right. Now, I think the arguments are gaining traction. Some of it’s horrible but most of its great fun.”
The image of UKIP
“We were seen to be dreamers, we were seen to be talking about something that was intellectual academic theory and wasn’t practical, well you can’t say that anymore. We are a very committed and sincere group of people but I would like to think we’re also a fairly human group of people. I met a backbench Tory MP recently in a back street in Westminster, a Eurosceptic and he said ‘god it must be so much more fun being in UKIP’ because we actually believe in what we’re doing and we’re not completely tied down by political correctness. We’re not afraid of making controversial arguments.”
The attraction of UKIP to young voters
“I think our style is quite attractive to young people. I’m slightly more irreverent than Cleggy (Nick Clegg) boy or someone like that so I think that has resonance for young people. A lot of young people have been on traditional campaigns about them having their voice heard and all the rest of it and what we’re talking about here is getting our democracy back. That is actually quite a powerful message to a lot of young people. Yes, we are definitely gaining some traction with younger voters.”
“When times are tight, people look at things. Here we have a government massively increasing foreign aid to countries like India who have aircraft carriers with planes on them. What’s happened to our sense of priorities? We unashamedly want to put Britain and the interests of the British people first. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that. For years it’s been you can’t say that, it sounds awful, but no we think it sounds quite respectable actually. We’ve been terrified of debating immigration, we’ve been terrified of debating any of these issues for fear that we would all get slagged off and it all would be too difficult. All of these arguments have gone underground for decades. I think UKIP is an important part of resting back to the centre ground of political debate.”
The future for UKIP
“I honestly think that if we carry on along our current trajectory, I think we could win the European election. I honestly do and then we can start to cast a shadow over the next general election. I’m not going to make any wild predictions but I do think we can go on and win the European election. I also think we will start to build up a council seat base across the country.
“However, the one thing that could really deflate us is if Cameron and the others actually acted on what we are saying and took away part of our agenda. It would mean our short term prospects would dip and so would our poll ratings but if that happened at least we could comfort ourselves by saying we helped to make things better. I see that as win-win situation. Longer term, even post EU, there is an enormous future for parties like UKIP. Parties that want a smaller state, parties that think we the people should be allowed to call referendums on major issues if we choose the parties that think the hunting ban and smoking ban are for people to decide themselves and not the government – the UKIP agenda will survive way beyond the EU quest. Whether it’s called UKIP or it merges, that stuff is impossible to predict. But the things we care about and stand for are gaining traction I have no doubt.”
The coalition government
“Nothing’s working, they’re in government during a tough time I grant them that so I’m not actually too critical about them in some ways on the economy. But if ever there was a time to help stimulate British business it is now. We don’t want the agency workers directed, we don’t want this massive employment legislation, now’s the time to try and stimulate the economy and you do that not by borrowing but by giving business opportunities and incentives.
“It is a government that is weak, it is a government that has been rocked on issues like votes for prisoners and just doesn’t know which way to turn. I suspect even if Cameron had a majority then things wouldn’t have been very different. It is a tough time to be in government but there’s nothing they have done which is inspiring people and making people think ‘hey these guys have got the courage to get us out of this’. When you’re in trouble you have to be radical, you have to do radical things and we’ve got the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, two established figures, with established values, with established backgrounds who think we’ve just got to tinker at the edges. No, we actually need radical stuff to try and make the change and make the difference. They’re not doing it.
“When Labour won in 1997 they had a very long honeymoon but any thought of a honeymoon in this coalition has gone completely. I do think politics is interesting at the moment not just because of the relative state of parties but because of the relative states of argument and debate. We’re back to a politics of debating issues, wherever we go with this people are talking about issues when for many years it was whether we preferred him or preferred her. We’re talking about issues again and I think for UKIP that’s quite good news.”
Please click on the link below to listen to the full audio version of this interview.