He had become the forgotten man of British politics, but when he bounded on to the stage for a rally in Peterborough this week, 1,500 ecstatic Brexiters chanted the name of the person who has changed the course of European history and convulsed the UK’s elite: “Nigel! Nigel! Nigel!”
Nigel Farage, the populist who led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU, looked like a spent force after the country voted for Brexit three years ago; the UK Independence party descended into chaos without his leadership, as he embarked on a career as a talk radio host, making occasional cameo appearances as Donald Trump’s best buddy.
But now with Brexit still unresolved and Theresa May’s Conservative government falling apart as it tries to secure Britain’s exit from the EU, the rally sent a chilling message to mainstream politics: their most effective opponent is back. “This fight now is about far more than just leaving the European Union,” he told cheering supporters. “This is a full-on battle against the establishment”.
When then-prime minister David Cameron announced in 2013 that he would hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, Tory MPs exulted that the policy would kill off the threat posed by Mr Farage. He knew better. “They’re coming to play on our pitch now,” he told the Financial Times at the time. Six years on, Mr Cameron is history and the Tory party has been torn apart. But Mr Farage is not finished: he is determined to wreak further damage to the Conservatives. This month — if opinion polls are right — his new Brexit party will deliver a cohort of MEPs to join a Europe-wide populist assault.
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