AS LANCASTER BOMBERS KNEW, THE HEAVIER THE FLAK, THE CLOSER YOU ARE TO THE TARGET.
THE DAY after a Corbynite thug hurled a tub of milkshake at Nigel Farage, a poncy microbrewery in Manchester urged customers not to throw beer but bricks instead, and a charity officer urged assailants to douse Farage in acid. Spectacular own goals. Like 1992, when John Major was expected to lose heavily to Neil Kinnock’s Labour, ordinary voters see violence as an attack not just on a politician, but on democracy itself. The egg that struck Major on his soap box in Luton lost Labour the election.
Whatever the media or yobs throw at him, Farage is irrepressible. I attended the finale of the barnstorming Brexit Party tour, and the huge crowd at Olympia gave a hero’s welcome. The Tories should be particularly worried, because many hitherto loyal supporters were here, and they won’t be coming back in a hurry. Suddenly they have switched allegiance, although it’s not really them who have changed. Lifelong Labour and Conservative voters have finally had enough of broken promises, subterfuge and lies. Farage is hoovering up the betrayed.
With a vibrant, mixed audience of over three thousand, the hall had an atmosphere of intense excitement. Party chairman Richard Tice began by introducing the slate of candidates for the EU election, as the best ever presented to the British electorate. Well, he would say that. But unlike an embarrassing Change UK mini-rally, this was not mere hubris. These are people from all walks of life, culturally diverse, and more importantly most have never stood for parliament before. Instead of politicians, men and women who have had real jobs, who are in touch with public opinion, and who can make decisions.
Next up was Ann Widdicombe, the unlikely star recruit of the Brexit Party campaign. This doughty but venerable old Tory epitomises the nascent political revolution. Widdicombe, like Farage, had retired from politics, but there is an urgent job to be done. The people spoke – and they were ignored. She realises that the only way forward is to destroy the political establishment by a mass, peaceful movement. The banner on stage ‘Change politics for good’ indicates that delivering Brexit is only the beginning.
Political speaking is like comedy gigs: the same script repeated to different listeners. But when the man of the moment took to the stage, he had plenty of new material. Dismissing the milkshake incident, he focused on more important adversaries. Earlier that day, Theresa May had announced that the government will put to the House of Commons a customs union and second referendum. Some in the crowd hadn’t yet heard the news, and there were audible gasps. Hoping for a big vote share on Thursday, Farage offered ‘buy one, get one free’ – get rid of both May and Corbyn.
Then Farage told us about the Electoral Commission’s visit to the Brexit Party headquarters. This nakedly politically-motivated act, spurred by ex-PM Gordon Brown’s allegation of financial impropriety, is another clarion call to the polling station. Cue loud boos for Brown, who was at the head of a corrupt government that dished out peerages to Labour donors. People can see through this blatant bias by a quango stuffed full of Remainers. For seven hours, Farage informed us, the Electoral Commission occupied the party office, trawling through every transaction. Its statement says it all: ‘We have not seen evidence of electoral offences, but the law in this area is complex’. As we know from the Leave campaign in the EU referendum, the Electoral Commission makes up the law and applies it retrospectively. But this simply feeds the increasingly widespread perception that the establishment is getting more desperate in its effort to cling on to its power and privilege.
The pantomime baddies kept coming: Guy Verhofstadt probably won on the decibel level. But there was also considerable booing for Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson. This is the man who arguably won the referendum (my view, if not Nigel’s). But he voted for May’s diabolical withdrawal agreement on the third showing, thus supporting the very vassalage he had warned against. And when the Beaconsfield Conservatives tried to deselect Dominic Grieve, he sided with the overtly treacherous MP over loyal party workers. Boris is a busted flush.
The rally had razzmatazz, in stark contrast to the crumbling Conservative government. This professionally-organised, positively principled party has existed for merely five weeks, yet it is set to win the EU election. The momentum is building, and there is a strong chance of gaining a first Westminster seat in the Peterborough by-election. In between is the visit by Donald Trump, a friend of Farage but undeniably a foe of the British political class. Then the prospect of a general election. Project Fear will be in overdrive as Tories tell us ‘vote Brexit Party, get a Marxist government’. But the Conservatives will be so weakened, that Farage will turn this around: vote Conservative, get Corbyn.