Euan McColm : Nigel Farage shows his true colours

UKIP leader Nigel Farage recently had an egg thrown at him. Picture: Getty
UKIP leader Nigel Farage recently had an egg thrown at him. Picture: Getty
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All talk and no action, hypocrite Nigel Farage shows his true colours says Euan McColm

Nigel Farage does a good line in righteous fury about the many and varied evils of the establishment.

When the UK Independence Party’s ratings rise, its leader credits a growing public anger with political elites.

And when one of his candidates or officials is exposed as a racist, a sexist, or a homophobe, Farage blames that same establishment for being out to smear Ukip because it says what real people think.

If it wasn’t for his constant battle against the establishment, Farage’s days would be long and empty. Instead, his political position – on the side of “us” against “them” – has helped him win the support not only of English voters who oppose EU membership or immigration but of those who simply oppose politics and every wretched swine involved.

Farage wallows in the luxury of ­being the anti-establishment politician of choice, the plain speaking, take no prisoners champion of the ignored masses.

Plain speaking, however, is as far as the Ukip leader seems willing to go. Bold action is a step too far.

Last week, Farage announced that he would not be standing as a candidate in the Newark by-election, caused by the resignation over a cash-for-questions scandal by Conservative MP Patrick Mercer.

His focus was on the European elections in three weeks’ time when he expected to cause that great contemporary political cliche “a political earthquake”.

Farage said that to stand for election in Newark, with which he had no real connections, would make him look like an opportunist and reinforce the impression that his party was a one-man band. That Farage is an opportunist and his party a one-man band made his explanation all the more satisfyingly ironic.

If he was serious about his proclaimed aim of taking on the establishment – or the political hierarchies which I understand him to mean by his use of the term – he would have taken a run at Newark.

Because it is from Westminster that Farage could really make the difference he insists he wants.

As an MP, he would be in the same arena as the establishment figure he so despises. Surely a swashbuckling man of the people like Nige would ­relish the opportunity of getting up close? Wouldn’t we expect this ­toppler of establishments and creator of earthquakes to want to go toe-to-toe with Prime Minister David Cameron?

But Farage is all mouth. He breezes along, through scandal and outrage, talking big and contributing nothing.

Despite his decision not to stand – not to risk failure – the Ukip leader described himself as a “warrior”. He’s not a warrior. He’s a chancer.

Despite having the demeanour of a villain in Emmerdale, Farage’s brass neck has seen him come a long way. Ukip is second behind Labour in polling on European election voting intentions on a “manifesto” that says Europe is destroying Britain and immigrants are coming to take our jobs.

It is exactly the same language of “the other” that extremists – such as the BNP – use.

Butter wouldn’t melt in Farage’s mouth as he denies his party is racist. Even opponents defend Ukip’s leader against any personal charge of such prejudice.

But build it and they will come. Farage may not be a racist – and I struggle to find any evidence that he is – but he has created a political party in which racists appear to feel quite at home.

Of course, whenever one of his members is exposed as the holder of revolting, extremist views, Farage is quick to insist that his party doesn’t tolerate such things. After time, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that, in fact, it does tolerate them. Not only that, it positively appeals to their blinkered worldview.

Having been forced to address yet another scandalous outburst by a member, Farage will whine that the establishment is behind the revelations. (They just want to discredit Ukip and they will stop at nothing, even if it means quoting the party’s own members in order to do so.)

Things that the establishment has done most recently to thwart the rise of Ukip include reporting that one senior member believes that the British comedian and actor Lenny Henry should move to a “black country” and that another believes we should feel free to despise gay people just as we might despise a certain blend of tea.

Remarkably, despite the sheer volume of scandals surrounding Ukip members, Farage continues to enjoy great personal support in England. Voters in large numbers continue to consider him some kind of champion of common sense rather than a jumped up little man on an ego trip. Farage’s success in persuading people that he is on their side will almost certainly see Ukip increase its representation at the European Parliament. Some polls suggest it could end up with as many as 25 MEPs.

And this, says Farage, would set his party up to become a key player in the 2015 General Election. Just as the Liberal Democrats did in 2010, Ukip could hold the balance of power next year.

But if Farage really believed that, why isn’t he leading the charge in ­Newark? The leader of Ukip might have angry words for the establishment but, given the opportunity to truly confront it, he has chickened out of the fight.

Farage is a one-trick pony, spouting meaningless slogans while brushing off uncomfortable truths about his colleagues. He’s a cynic, attacking the excesses of politicians while raking in a huge salary and expenses as an MEP.

And he’s a weasel, defending his party from charges of intolerance by describing it as it should be rather than as it is.

But more than all of these things, Farage is a hypocrite. He claims to be committed to transforming the world through his politics but his first instinct is not to strike out, driven on by principle, but to protect his cushy number in Brussels.

This week we saw Nigel Farage ­exposed as that which he proclaims to despise: a self-interested career politician. «

Twitter: @euanmccolm