Pa­tro­n­ised. Be­lit­tled. But now the real threat to Farage’s legacy is... HIM­SELF

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - by Stephen Glover

NIGEL FARAGE has just a few hours to save Brexit — and tor­pedo Jeremy Cor­byn — by pulling his can­di­dates from cru­cial Tory tar­get seats. He would thereby avoid split­ting the Leave vote in those con­stituen­cies.

Will he do so? He re­peated yes­ter­day that he won’t with­draw from the con­test. In­stead, his party will ‘tar­get re­sources where best we can’. This im­plies a more lim­ited cam­paign — but one that could still dam­age the Con­ser­va­tives.

Many ob­servers see a proud man who re­fuses to climb down, es­pe­cially only days af­ter agree­ing not to fight the 317 seats the Tories won in the 2017 gen­eral Elec­tion.

Since that con­ces­sion was widely seen as a hu­mil­i­a­tion, the gen­eral feeling seems to be that Mr Farage daren’t risk the bait­ing and mock­ery that would fol­low the Brexit Party’s com­plete with­drawal from the race.

I dis­agree. He has un­til four o’clock this after­noon to de­cide how many seats to fight on De­cem­ber 12. If he were to throw in the towel, the Brexit Party leader might face crit­i­cism in the short term. But in the longer term, which is all that re­ally mat­ters to prom­i­nent politi­cians jeal­ous of their rep­u­ta­tions, an ap­par­ent sur­ren­der would ul­ti­mately be ac­counted a states­man­like and far­sighted act.

What has Nigel Farage lived for? To get Bri­tain out of the EU. He has de­voted his life to that cause — and suf­fered the hos­til­ity of much of the me­dia, and the con­de­scen­sion of es­tab­lished par­ties, in that of­ten lonely en­deav­our.

At times al­most sin­gle-hand­edly, he flew the flag for leav­ing the EU when it was pe­riph­eral to most peo­ple’s con­cerns and re­garded by the Tory and Labour lead­er­ships as ex­trem­ist.

Abra­sive

What slights he has en­dured! David Cameron once fa­mously de­scribed his for­mer party, Ukip, as ‘a bunch of... fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists’. That was partly an as­sess­ment — a very un­fair one, I’d say — of Mr Farage’s per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Only a cou­ple of months ago, an uniden­ti­fied source in No 10, who might have been the abra­sive Do­minic Cum­mings, said that the leader of the Brexit Party was not a ‘fit and proper per­son’ to en­ter gov­ern­ment.

While fre­quently the sub­ject of pa­tro­n­is­ing brick­bats, Mr Farage has strug­gled on — stand­ing for West­min­ster seven times in vain, and be­ing elected to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on four oc­ca­sions. He was nearly killed in a plane crash while cam­paign­ing.

My guess, although I don’t know him, is that un­der­neath that brash and cheery ve­neer there ex­ists a sen­si­tive, soli­tary man who is eas­ily stung when writ­ten off by peo­ple who think them­selves more civilised, bet­ter ed­u­cated and more re­spectable than he is.

Say what you like about him, he has been coura­geous and in­de­fati­ga­ble. He has fought the good fight — not for money, nor for ease of life, but for a prin­ci­ple in which he deeply be­lieves.

In fact, it is prob­a­bly safe to say that if Mr Farage had not ex­isted, Brexit wouldn’t have hap­pened — at any rate, not when it did. Re­main­ers and Leavers alike can agree that this is his mon­u­ment.

So why threaten it? Why, af­ter all he has done, al­low pride or van­ity to in­ter­fere with the ful­fil­ment of his life’s jour­ney? Why risk de­stroy­ing his legacy and all that he has achieved?

Oh, I can see how irk­some it must be to watch a Johnny come-lately like Boris John­son, only a rel­a­tively re­cent con­vert to the cause, rul­ing the roost and ne­go­ti­at­ing his own ver­sion of Brexit (though one that seems pretty whole­hearted).

And I can imag­ine how mad­den­ing it must be to be dis­missed by a su­per­cil­ious crea­ture such as Do­minic Cum­mings, with his first-class Ox­ford de­gree and pas­sion for study­ing the works of Athe­nian sol­dier and his­to­rian Thucy­dides. But th­ese are small things.

Mr Farage has never sought the good opin­ion of the fash­ion­able world, and no one would se­ri­ously de­scribe Mr John­son as the ar­chi­tect of Brexit. So I ask again: why?

Mr Farage might re­ply that he has al­ready done his bit by agree­ing not to fight con­stituen­cies won by the Tories in 2017. But most psephol­o­gists think this will award them no more than a hand­ful of seats.

It is the marginals — par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­lands, the North of Eng­land and Wales — that re­ally do count.

There are nearly 30 con­stituen­cies in which a tiny swing from Labour to Tory of 3 per cent or less would give victory to Boris John­son. But even a small vote for the Brexit Party could de­prive him.

Mr Farage has re­peat­edly ar­gued that in such seats his party would be likely to take more votes from Labour than the Tories.

Al­most no in­de­pen­dent ex­perts agree.

It’s true the Brexit Party has been de­clin­ing in most polls, to the point where out­right victory in any seat now seems un­likely. How­ever, given such nar­row mar­gins, a com­par­a­tively small num­ber of votes could be de­ci­sive in tip­ping the out­come to­wards Labour.

Mys­ti­fied

I am mys­ti­fied. Can Mr Farage re­ally have such pride in the Brexit Party (which is less than a year old) that he is pre­pared to risk de­priv­ing Mr John­son of a ma­jor­ity, and pos­si­bly ush­er­ing in a LabourSNP-Lib Dem al­liance that would dis­man­tle Brexit?

Per­haps he doesn’t have such a hor­ror of a Cor­byn-led gov­ern­ment as I do.

Con­ceiv­ably he is not so fright­ened of a high-tax, high­spend, anti-Amer­i­can, semiMarx­ist and gen­er­ally lu­natic ad­min­is­tra­tion. But he must see that chal­leng­ing the Tories in Labour marginals could de­prive Mr John­son of the ma­jor­ity he needs to ‘get

Brexit done’. On Tues­day, Mr Farage wrote in the Daily Tele­graph: ‘I have no great love for the Tories, but I can see that by giv­ing John­son half a chance we will pre­vent a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. To me, that is the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing for Bri­tain.’

If he is pre­pared to give Boris ‘half a chance’ by with­draw­ing from 317 seats, why isn’t he pre­pared to give him a bet­ter chance by stand­ing down from all, or nearly all, of them? Af­ter the PM’s video on Sun­day in­di­cat­ing that he wanted a free trade agree­ment with the EU, and a short tran­si­tion pe­riod end­ing in De­cem­ber 2020, Mr Farage ad­mit­ted: ‘That ac­tu­ally sounds a bit more like the Brexit that we voted for.’

Why not back it, then? There is pal­pa­ble con­fu­sion at the heart of the Brexit Party. Mr Farage even ap­peared to sug­gest yes­ter­day that he might con­sider vot­ing Tory, be­fore later tweet­ing that he wouldn’t do so.

His an­nounce­ment that he will tar­get con­stituen­cies among ‘142 seats in the coun­try that the Con­ser­va­tives have never won and never will’ is likely to give the Tories only lim­ited com­fort. They could still be dam­aged in cru­cial Labour marginals.

The mo­ment of truth has ar­rived. If Mr Farage re­fuses to com­pro­mise, ev­ery­thing he has striven for will be at risk. Even if the Tories sur­vive the on­slaught he is seem­ingly de­ter­mined to in­flict, his­tory may well not treat him kindly.

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