With Trump meet­ing, Farage up­sets Bri­tain estab­lish­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Af­ter help­ing se­cure the shock vote for Brexit, UKIP leader Nigel Farage pulled off another coup by be­com­ing the first Bri­tish politi­cian to meet Don­ald Trump, up­set­ting the estab­lish­ment once again. Long dis­missed as a po­lit­i­cal out­sider who had failed re­peat­edly to win a seat in the House of Com­mons, Farage stunned Bri­tain and the world when he helped de­liver the June vote to leave the Euro­pean Union.

Five months later, Trump’s vic­tory has again pro­pelled the UK In­de­pen­dence Party (UKIP) in­terim leader into the lime­light. Farage had cam­paigned for Trump, be­liev­ing the Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire-who many thought could never win-had tapped into sim­i­lar anger over glob­al­iza­tion and rul­ing elites as the anti-EU cam­paign in Bri­tain. When Trump won last week, Farage re­turned to the United States and on Satur­day met the fu­ture leader of the free world at his head­quar­ters in New York. A photo of the two men-Farage grin­ning broadly and Trump giv­ing a thumbs up­was widely pub­lished in Bri­tain, with one head­line read­ing: “The vic­tory of the out­siders.”

Farage has now of­fered to act as a con­duit be­tween the in­com­ing US ad­min­is­tra­tion and Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment, sug­gest­ing that fences needed mend­ing be­tween the two sides. But May’s spokes­woman noted the premier had been in­vited to Wash­ing­ton dur­ing a phone call with Trump last week and point­edly said that there was no need for a “third per­son” in their re­la­tion­ship. Con­ser­va­tive for­mer for­eign min­is­ter Mal­colm Rifkind mean­while said Farage’s visit was about “celebrity pol­i­tics” while La­bor for­mer for­eign min­is­ter Mar­garet Beck­ett said: “It was not a di­plo­matic trip, it was an ego trip.”

‘Think out of the box’

But some min­is­ters are re­port­edly in favour of Farage’s of­fer if it helps Bri­tain build strong trade ties af­ter Brexit, amid some un­ease about fu­ture re­la­tions with a US pres­i­dent who chal­lenges the es­tab- lished lib­eral order. “We live in very un­con­ven­tional times po­lit­i­cally at the mo­ment and we need to think out of the box,” for­mer Con­ser­va­tive de­fence min­is­ter Ger­ald Howarth told BBC ra­dio, say­ing it was “worth talk­ing to” Farage.

Pro­fes­sor Rob Ford, an ex­pert in the rad­i­cal right at Bri­tain’s Univer­sity of Man­ches­ter, said Farage could well be a useful con­duit into a Trump White House. “There’s a clear per­sonal con­nec­tion there, and Trump seems to be the kind of guy who val­ues those kind of re­la­tion­ships,” he said. How­ever, Ford doubted if the of­fer of help­ing the govern­ment was se­ri­ous. “That was clas­sic Farage. It en­ables him to show off his friend­ship and wind up the kind of peo­ple in the Con­ser­va­tive party who an­noy him,” he said.

A good year

Re­la­tions be­tween UKIP and May’s Con­ser­va­tives have al­ways been frosty, par­tic­u­larly as UKIP be­gan woo­ing Tory vot­ers. Farage was ex­cluded from the of­fi­cial Brexit cam­paign, but he steered the de­bate to­wards im­mi­gra­tion, a win­ning strat­egy, de­spite ac­cu­sa­tions of racism. Al­though he was ed­u­cated pri­vately and once worked as a com­modi­ties trader, Farage has care­fully cul­ti­vated an im­age as an or­di­nary “ev­ery­man”, honed over hours spent in the pub. He pro­moted the idea that a vote for Brexit was a vote against the es­tab­lished order-a mes­sage he took to Mississippi when he stumped for Trump in Au­gust.

By then, Farage had quit the lead­er­ship of UKIP, the party he co-founded in 1993 and for which he has been a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (MEP) since 1999. He said he wanted his life back, spark­ing a BBC tele­vi­sion mock­u­men­tary that imag­ined him as a racist pub bore who spends his days watch­ing and try­ing to ap­pear on tele­vi­sion. Farage was forced to re­turn as in­terim leader af­ter UKIP de­scended into in-fight­ing, but the joke is no longer on him. His ties with the in­com­ing US ad­min­is­tra­tion are open­ing new doors, noted Ford, adding: “Apart from Don­ald Trump, it’s hard to think of some­one who has had a bet­ter year.”— AFP

JACK­SON: This file photo shows Repub­li­can Pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump (right) greet­ing United King­dom In­de­pen­dence Party leader Nigel Farage dur­ing a cam­paign rally at the Mississippi Coli­seum on Au­gust 24, 2016 in Jack­son, Mississippi. — AFP

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