UKIP leader marks his territory as PM plays with fire
Like some ghost of conference past, Nigel Farage has returned to haunt us once again, not only as interim leader of UKIP but as the deus ex machina in the Tory Party.
The part-time MEP and Trump supporter materialized after Theresa May’s populist speech at party conference, to take credit for the worst parts of it.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, he croaked:
‘Well, it was a remarkable speech by Theresa May. It made you realise the extent to which UKIP hadn’t just pushed for, gained and helped to win a referendum, but how actually we’ve changed the centre of gravity of British politics.
Virtually everything she said in that speech, are things that I’ve said the the UKIP conference over the course of the last five or six years.’
Farage then made a typically sinister prediction about betrayal around the corner:
‘So yes, she gave a good speech. It sounds terrific, it’s raised expectations.
The real question is, is she going to deliver as Prime Minister in the way that she failed to deliver as Home Secretary?
And I think when you raise people’s expectations, if then you don’t deliver the goods, well, provided UKIP is in a good strong position, come early 2019, come to the time when the Brexit process will come to an end, if Brexit is not seen to have meant Brexit, then I think you’ll find UKIP going into the next general election stronger than it’s ever been before.’
This seems a tad ambitious given UKIP can’t even choose a leader right now, but you can see why Farage is milking the moment for all it’s worth.
He was joined in this victory dance by UKIP and Leave.EU donor Arron Banks, who said of May:
‘She’s basically today rebranded the Conservative Party UKIP.’
— LEAVE.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) October 6, 2016
This is going too far. The Conservative Party has not transformed into UKIP over night. But they are becoming too close for comfort, and for at least as long as Farage refuses to give up the ghost, the government’s slide into right-wing populism will likely continue.
Theresa May no doubt thinks herself clever in taking what she can use from Labour and UKIP.
But the lesson of her predecessor, David Cameron, is that feeding a fire will not keep it at bay, and that populism, by definition, tends to boomerang on those in power.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.