Who is Nigel Farage?
Nigel Farage MEP, leader of the Brexit Party and former leader of UKIP, has long attempted to present himself as a straight-talking, honest, “common sense” politician.
However, there is an enormous gulf between his self-presentation and reality. Farage has used racism, xenophobia, sexism and Islamophobia to stir up division, has toxic connections to extreme and far-right figures across the world, and Thatcherite beliefs that he has tried to hide from communities in former industrial towns.
Below we round up Farage’s attempts to exploit prejudice, his divisive and dishonest statements, his elite background and his toxic overseas associates.
RACIST & XENOPHOBIC REMARKS
- Farage said on LBC Radio in 2014: “I was asked if a group of Romanian men moved in next to you, would you be concerned? And if you lived in London, I think you would be”. Upon being asked whether he would object to living next door to German children, he replied “You know what the difference is”.
- He claimed in 2014 that parts of Britain were “unrecognisable” and “like a foreign land”. He had also claimed he felt “awkward” when he heard people speaking other languages on the train.
- When asked in a 2014 interview with Newsweek Europe who he thought should be allowed to come to the UK, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.” During the 2015 General Election campaign, he deployed misleading statistics about foreigners with HIV in a TV debate.
- Farage unveiled his infamous Breaking Point poster in the lead up to the EU referendum, which was compared to Nazi propaganda. Farage refused to apologise for it.
- During the Referendum Farage collaborated with Leave.EU, the unofficial Brexit campaign run by Farage’s longtime ally Arron Banks and co-founded by Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice, which relentlessly sought to link immigrants and Muslims to violence and societal decline. Both Farage and Tice have distanced themselves from Leave.EU since the Referendum, as multiple scandals have struck the outfit.
- Farage is a well-known admirer of Enoch Powell, who is infamous for the “Rivers of Blood” speech. Farage asked Powell for his support in a by-election in 1994, and drove Powell to a UKIP rally in 1993, writing “That meeting, with a man who had achieved so much and sacrificed so much for his principles, awoke all sorts of aspirations in me which I had not even acknowledged before. It inspired me.” Farage also claimed in 2008 that “While his language may seem out of date now, his principles remain good and true”, and that “I would never say that Powell was racist in any way at all. Had we listened to him, we would have much better race relations now than we have got”. He has elsewhere agreed with a section of the Rivers of Blood speech, claiming that the “basic principle” was correct, spoke glowingly of Powell, and has even recited sections of the speech from memory.
- Farage formerly had a column at Breitbart, the far-right, anti-immigrant “news” outlet, formerly owned by his longtime ally Steve Bannon and formerly headed in the UK by his ex-aide Raheem Kassam.
- Farage blamed immigration for making him late to one of his own speaking events, stating “That has nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a country in which the population is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.”
- Farage defended a UKIP candidate’s use of the slur “ch*nky”, stating “If you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?”
- Following the Westminster attack, Farage spoke of a “fifth column living inside these European countries” on Fox News. “If you open your door to uncontrolled immigration from Middle Eastern countries, you are inviting in terrorism”, said Farage. He has elsewhere made “fifth column” comments in the wake of the 2015 Paris attack, here and here.
DANGEROUS AND DIVISIVE
- Just after the Referendum result was announced, Farage stated that Brexit had been won “without a single bullet being fired”, just over a week after Jo Cox MP was assassinated.
- In 2017, Farage claimed he would “don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines” if May failed to deliver Brexit “properly”, claiming “there will be widespread public anger in this country on a scale and in a way we have never seen before”.
- In September of this year Farage told a rally of supporters in Newport, South Wales that “once Brexit is done, we will take the knife” to “overpaid pen-pushers in Whitehall”. Farage later claimed that he “should have said ‘take the axe’, which is a more traditional term for cuts”.
- Farage defended Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks as “locker room banter” and “alpha-male boasting”.
- Farage told women to “sit in the corner” if they wanted to breastfeed their children, in order not to be “openly ostentatious”.
- He claimed that, in banking, women were “worth far less” than men if they chose to have a family: “If a woman with a client base has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away because that client base won’t be stuck as rigidly to her”. Upon being asked if this was fair, he replied: “I can’t change biology”.
- Under his leadership, UKIP’s 2010 manifesto had a policy to abolish statutory maternity pay (SMP). “Rather than playing the ‘money-go-round’ with the attendant administrative burden, Ukip would abolish SMP entirely and simply allow parents who stay at home with their children to claim a weekly parental allowance set at the same level as the basic cash benefit proposed in our welfare policy (in other words, around £64 per week for parents aged 25 and above) regardless of how long they are off work and regardless of the other spouse’s income”.
- In 2010, when asked about women’s football, Farage gave the following answer: “Here’s the bigger question. Do we think, chaps, when we’re there in the front line, when the balloon goes up, with fixed bayonets, when the whistle’s about to blow to go over the top, do we actually want to be there with women beside us? Do we? What an extraordinarily bizarre idea! I certainly don’t think so. But maybe it’s because I’ve got so many women pregnant over the years that I have a different view. I find it very difficult to think that we could stand up and run over the top together, into the machine guns or whatever. Men and women are different – thank God!”
- In 2013 Farage claimed “I have never ever said ‘Britain is full’, I’ve never ever used that term” after calling for the government to offer refuge to Syrian Christians caught in the war. “That is not inconsistent with my position that says it is total madness, in two days time, to open up our borders to hundreds of thousands of people from Romania and Bulgaria”, said Farage. However, a video soon surfaced of him using the phrase “Britain is full” just months earlier.
- In May 2016, Farage said he would back a second referendum if the margin of victory for the winning side was small. Farage told the Mirror “In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way. If the Remain campaign win two-thirds to one-third that ends it”.
- In May 2019 The Metro reported that Farage had been labelled a “terrible, terrible human being” by a pub landlord, who alleged that Farage had fled the scene of a head-on car crash. “He didn’t even bother to see if me and my little boy were OK. He just upped and left”, he said, and went on to ban Farage from his Kent pub.
- Farage is the son of a wealthy stockbroker, and attended Dulwich College, one of the most elite schools in the country, which several family members had also attended. Farage went on to send his sons to boarding school.
- He became a City metals trader after reportedly being offered the job by a man he met on a golf course. Despite repeatedly railing against politicians for never having worked a “proper job”, Farage described his work as:
- “alcoholic like you cannot believe and, frankly, we were pretty amateur. There were terrible cockups in the afternoon, contracts bought instead of sold, some priced wrongly (decimal points and all those zeros can be tricky after a three-hour lunch), the wrong metal bought for the wrong client. When the mistakes came to light, usually the next day, we would just shrug our shoulders”.
- “The trading room – full of cigarette smoke, smart suit jackets on the backs of chairs and long desks packed with multi-line phones – was close to the London Metals Exchange and to Coates wine bar, God help us, where we often went at 11.30 in the morning for sharpeners”.
- “In the 1980s things hadn’t really changed much since P.G .Wodehouse’s book Psmith in the City. The character created by Wodehouse – like me, an old boy at Dulwich College – said that people in the City spend their mornings choosing where to go for lunch then their afternoons telling everyone how good it was.”
- In 2016 Farage threw a party at the Ritz, during which he decried the “career, professional political class” to a room full of billionaires and multi-millionaires.
- Despite claiming to be “skint” in 2017, the International Business Times estimated that he had a net worth of £2.4m the previous year. Farage also claimed in 2017 that he would not relinquish his pension from the EU.
- In July 2018, The Guardian reported that Farage was the highest earning MEP outside the European Parliament of any of the 73 British MEPs, the seventh-highest earning MEP overall. The same article also claimed that, through his media work, he had earned between £524,000 and £700,000 in the previous four years.
- This year Farage took a private plane to Strasbourg and stated he “can’t remember” how much it cost, claiming to have paid it himself. He later tweeted that he had been reimbursed by an unnamed businessman.
- In May this year Channel 4 alleged that Arron Banks had given £450,000 to Farage following the Referendum, used to pay his £13,000 monthly rent for his Chelsea townhouse, and even provide him with a Land Rover Discovery with a driver. Farage evaded questions on the matter.
- The Guardian reported in July 2019 that Farage is being paid at least £26,900 a month by his media company Thorn in the Side, which he founded to handle income from his media appearances and lectures.
- In 2013, The Mirrorrevealed that Farage had set up an offshore trust fund on the Isle of Man, claiming that his “financial advisors recommended I did it”, and admitting it was a “mistake”, and that “I am not blaming them it was my fault”. In 2016 he also refused to release his tax returns, unlike a number of high-profile politicians, in the wake of the Panama Papers tax avoidance scandal.
- Farage portrays himself as the champion of the disaffected working class, but he is a self-described Thatcherite. Farage told The Sun in 2013 that
“I am a Thatcherite. First and foremost, she was a leader and leaders have ideas and vision and chart a course […] If you look at TV footage of Mrs Thatcher being interviewed in the Eighties it actually takes your breath away. She had conviction, passion, belief. She was forthright. She spoke in a language that ordinary people could understand. Today’s so-called leaders don’t speak the same language that ordinary working families in Britain understand. They are wimps in comparison to her”.
- He stated in an interview with Newsweek in 2018: “I was in business, I supported Margaret Thatcher’s modernization and reforms of the economy. It was painful for some people, but it had to happen, and it brought us into the modern world. I worked in a very global business, the most global of the lot.”
- Farage claimed in his so-called “Common Sense” tour in 2012 that the UK should move to a private insurance-based health service, calling this year for private companies to “relieve the burden on the health service”. Already on the campaign he has backed private healthcare, stating “I think for high earners to be encouraged to opt out [of the NHS] would be a very, very good idea”.
- Farage has an unseemly relationship with the US President, who he calls his “friend”. Farage has fawned over Trump, praising him for having “dominated” Hillary Clinton “like a big silverback gorilla prowling the stage” in a debate, and campaigning for him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has also claimed that “Since the election of Donald J. Trump, every time I come to America, I’m feeling a little bit more American”.
- Farage has also defended Trump’s Islamophobic outbursts. When Trump retweeted a post from Britain First, the far-right anti-Muslim street movement that has carried out “mosque invasions” in the UK, Farage called the outrage “out of all proportion” and “ridiculous”. After Trump told four congresswomen of colour to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Farage said that whilst he initially felt uncomfortable, he then realised Trump’s comments were “genius”, that he “does things his way”, and called him “a remarkably effective operator”.
- Despite railing against Barack Obama for “monstrous interference” in the 2016 Referendum, after the then-US President commented on how Brexit might affect UK/USA trading relations, Farage had Trump on his LBC show at the start of this General Election campaign, during which the US President commented about out how Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal might affect UK/USA trading relations.
- Farage is a longtime associate of Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon, a far-right organiser and former boss of Breitbart News Network (where Farage once had a column). The day article 50 was triggered, Farage thanked Bannon and Breitbart, stating “Well done Bannon, well done Breitbart, you’ve helped with this hugely”. Farage has described Bannon as “my kind of chap”, and reportedly even gave Bannon a portrait of him dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte.
- In October 2017, Bannon offered Farage a role helping to “knit together this populist nationalist movement throughout the world”, telling him he would be “the perfect guy” to front it. Bannon mentioned the anti-Muslim, populist Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte as parts of this movement.
- On Bannon’s bequest Farage addressed a pro-Roy Moore event in Alabama in 2017. Farage begins: “The phone rings. It’s Steve Bannon! He says, “Could you come to Alabama tomorrow, because we’d like you to put your voice behind a true, genuine conservative in the shape of Judge Roy Moore […] it took me a whole 10 seconds to decide to drop everything and come here to be with you this evening”. Farage said Moore’s election was “important for the whole global movement across the West that we have built up and we have fought for.”
- Moore, a homophobe and Islamophobe, has been accused by six women of pursuing romantic sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers, including one from a woman who was fourteen, when he was in his 30s; two accused him of assault or molestation. He has denied these accusations. Despite campaigning for Moore after the allegations were public, Farage has since expressed regret for his support of Moore, saying “I should have thought about the whole thing far more deeply than I did, and it was a mistake”.
Marine Le Pen:
- Farage openly supported Marine le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (since renamed National Assembly), in the 2017 French presidential elections, and provided her a friendly interview on LBC. Farage also stated in 2017 that “she has a huge amount in common with firstly the Brexit campaign and secondly with President Trump”.
- This is despite Farage’s own prior condemnation of Le Pen’s party. In his book The Purple Revolution, published in 2015, Farage claimed that whilst “the problem is not with Marine […] the fact remains that anti-Semitism is in the party’s DNA”. He also claimed that “The National Front is still a party that is fundamentally about race – the EU is an afterthought.”
Alternative for Germany (AfD):
- Nigel Farage addressed an event of the far-right, anti-Muslim AfD in Berlin in 2017, after he was invited by the AfD’s Beatrix von Storch, granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister, who also welcomed him to the stage during the rally.
- In 2016 Farage himself welcomed von Storch into his Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament, saying “I’ve watched the rise of the AfD with fascination, with interest, and I’ve been cheering on from the sidelines”.
- In 2017 Farage claimed he “admires” Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, saying that he is “the strongest and best leader in the whole of Europe”. He told Orbán “Come and join the Brexit club, you’ll love it!”
- Orbán and his party Fidesz have increasingly turned to nativist and authoritarian policies. The Council of Europe has called out Hungary for human rights violations in respect of the treatment of immigrants, who have reportedly even been denied basic necessities such as food, as well as for new laws targeting the homeless (who are predominantly disabled, immigrants, refugees and Roma). The European Parliament has also opened the possibility of sanction proceedings after new laws were introduced threatening the independence of the country’s judiciary and media.
- Farage has made six appearances on InfoWars, the American conspiracy show run by far-right pundit Alex Jones. Jones has been described as “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. Conspiracies forwarded by Jones include:
- The 7/7 bombings were a British government plot
- The Sandy Hook shooting was staged
- High ranking figures in the Democratic Party ran a child sex ring out of a pizza shop
- 9/11 was an inside job, carried out by the US government
- The following quotes, from his six appearances on the show, have been uncovered by The Guardian:
- On April 2018, when asked by Jones “Why is the left allied with radical Islam?”, Farage replies: “Because they hate Christianity. They deny, absolutely, our Judeo-Christian culture, which if you think about it actually are the roots, completely, of our nations and our civilisation. They deny that. They also want to abolish the nation state – they want to get rid of it. They want to replace it with the globalist project, and the European Union is the prototype for the new world order.”
- On June 2010 he referenced the Bilderberg group, claiming “These lunatics genuinely believe that they know what’s best for us, genuinely believe in this concept of global government, and it will be a disaster.”
- On December 2009 he claimed “We have a political class across the world that are basically aiming for a form of global governance. If you don’t believe me, look at what’s happening in Copenhagen. Governments are sitting there trying to sign us up to treaties on a very, very questionable concept of global warming caused by C02 emissions.”