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Foolish to underestimate Farage – the master of opportunism

By Peter Madeley | General Election 2019 | Published:

Nigel Farage has made mistakes, but he could still be a force in British politics after the election, writes Peter Madeley.

Nigel Farage has blundered badly in the early part of the general election campaign

The history of politics is filled with dramatic comeback stories.

People who have risen through the ranks, then dropped back down the slippery pole, only to somehow manage to make their way back into a top job.

Sir Winston Churchill was banished into the political wilderness twice before he became, in the eyes of many, the greatest Prime Minister of all time.

This year South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson appeared to be toast following the Huawei leak scandal.

He lost his job as Defence Secretary and was written off in the national press, but within a couple of months he had managed to get a seat back at the top table.

In the murky world of politics making a comeback requires several key ingredients. One of them is luck, but stubbornness, determination and a keen eye for an opportunity also come into play.

When it comes to the latter, Nigel Farage has been the undisputed master in recent years.

He turned Ukip into an electoral force that swamped the European Parliament in 2014, scaring the bejeebies out of the establishment and sewing the seeds for the referendum two years later.

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Even leading Tories now concede that Mr Farage's input in the subsequent Brexit debate contributed greatly to the Leave result, even though he wasn't allowed a role in the official campaign.

At that point in 2016, as the Brexiteer celebrations faded into the summer night, it looked as though Mr Farage would retire gracefully from political life, his mission complete.

But Parliament's insistence on doing everything in its power to stop Brexit from happening brought him back.

Put simply, he saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands, forming the Brexit Party and again dominating the EU elections.

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Now he faces what may well be his biggest challenge yet.

His swift climbdown from his pledge to field 600 candidates was humiliating. His treatment of the candidates who had placed their trust in him, but were forced to stand down, was nothing short of disgraceful.

His reasoning behind that decision – to allow Tory candidates a free run so a Boris Johnson-led government can implement a Brexit deal that Mr Farage believes is terrible – makes no sense.

Most importantly, Mr Farage has let down Brexit supporters in hundreds of constituencies who now feel they have no representation at this election.

But while he may have fallen flat on his face so far in this campaign it would be foolish to write him off, even if his party bombs at the polls next month.

This is an election that is far more likely to result in chaos that it is to herald a calmer political climate.

It is in such circumstances where more than any other British politician, Nigel Farage thrives.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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