Jim Duffy: What now for Farage the disruptor after Brexit win?

This is a man who has seen his life's mission accomplished but the question now is where does he go from here, asks Jim Duffy

Has the time come for Nigel Farage? Having achieved his mission and seen the UK vote to leave the EU, has the arch disruptor scratched that inner itch? Picture: Getty Images
Has the time come for Nigel Farage? Having achieved his mission and seen the UK vote to leave the EU, has the arch disruptor scratched that inner itch? Picture: Getty Images

You can say what you like about Nigel Farage, but one thing is for certain, he has turned the UK political picture upside down and inside out – and he’s not even an elected MP. He’s not Prime Minister, nor is he likely to be, but his vision for a UK outside the European Union is coming to pass.

What is it about Farage that, despite major setbacks and knocks, he has managed to steer the UK out of EU hands and sparked turmoil in the Westminster village?

Recently, I was travelling to Belfast and Mr Farage was in the seat behind me. I could tell as he boarded that plane that he was not in the mood to chat, so I decided not to bother him. The flight to Belfast from Edinburgh is literally up and down with just enough time for the cabin crew to serve a quick drink. It was mid afternoon. I listened as the stewardess asked him what he wanted and I guess I should have known – “gin and tonic please with ice and lemon”. James Bond always has his vodka martini – shaken not stirred – and Nigel Farage likes his G and T served as it should be. He was dressed impeccably in his grey pinstripe suit and his shoes were polished. He was clean-shaven and as I observed him, he looked like a man on a mission. A mission he has been on for 18 years.

Now let’s face it, that big beast of Scottish politics, Alex Salmond, cannae stomach Mr Farage. I seem to recall that Naughty Nigel visited Scotland a few years back and was rather ungracefully corralled in an Edinburgh boozer as he waited for safe passage for his transport to get him out of there. Mr Salmond at the time did not mince his words when asked about Mr Farage’s treatment in Scotland. Probably so, as they both come from the same end of a magnet and repel each other. They are kindred spirits, but in a different dimension and on a different planet. It’s a bit like many entrepreneurs I know. They respect each other – to an extent – and have similar traits, but can’t sit in the same room or get involved in the same stuff.

And this leads me to why I think Mr Farage has been so successful in getting his own way and leaving us all in a post Brexit catatonic state. He is a classic disruptor. Harvard should do a paper on him as he typifies what a disruptor is and how they create change. He went to the European Parliament where he set out his goal – selfish or not – to make us all aware of why it didn’t work and to do something about it. In his words to the parliament this week, “you all laughed at me” – and to a disruptor like Nigel, that’s like putting a tankful of rocket fuel in his backpack. You see, people like him are cause driven with laser like focus. He’s got an almighty chip on both shoulders and by God he will do whatever it takes to ensure he wins… and wins well.

It kind of reminds me of the story of Samson from the Old Testament. The God of the day allegedly gave him superhuman powers linked to his hairdo. He got into a bit of trouble with Delilah, who made sure he got a No 1 all over. And to be fair after that many of us would have given up, but not Samson. He believed in his God and when they all laughed at him, mocked him and taunted him, he came back right at them and brought the temple down on them all. And that is the mentality of a disruptor who does not care for the status quo nor those who hold power within it. The disruptor keeps on coming back until the job is done and the cause has been fulfilled and the inner itch scratched.

And herein lays the problem now for Mr Farage. Now that he has changed the fate of our nation, what does he do now? I’ve been there and it’s a strange place.

This week, I handed over the reins of Entrepreneurial Spark, my business, my cause, my disruptive baby to a new CEO. As a disruptor, I felt that we had achieved what we wanted to do and it was now time for Entrepreneurial Spark to grow and become more credible. It is now in great hands. But, having achieved the positive disruption I wanted in entrepreneurship and enterprise in Scotland, it is now time for me to find a new cause. I’ve accepted that the same way that an alcoholic accepts that its one day at a time. However, I fear that the bold Nigel’s days of disruption and in making stuff happen will not work well in what takes place next.

My advice, should he heed it…you have caused the disruption and now you have to stand aside while others make it all work in a credible way. If you keep sticking your oar in you will just be seen a pest and it could damage your reputation.

The measure in Nigel Farage now rests in his ability to accept what he has done, while gracefully stepping away and respectfully consulting from the sideline.

Arise Lord Farage is on the cards. But, if he is clever, he will let others create this part of his legacy.

• Agitator and disruptor Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark