Conservatives working to reclaim a rudderless GOP should contemplate forming a third party, Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), said in an exclusive interview following a U.S. tour during which he met with top officials including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
“I have no idea what the Republican Party stands for,” Farage said at the Breitbart News Embassy on Capitol Hill. “I meet lots of individuals within it who want it to say one thing or another, but collectively it’s pretty blurry, it’s pretty unclear,” Farage said of the Republican Party in the U.S. “If I was living over here, I would say to myself alright number one we’ve got to reclaim our party–we’ve got to take it away from being safe and establishment, because that way you’re never going to win because the Democrats have certain built-in advantages. If you are unable to reclaim your party, you might have to do a UKIP.”
Farage helped form UKIP in the early 1990s in response to the Conservative Party, the U.K.’s version of the Republican Party, and Labour Party, the U.K.’s version of the Democratic Party, both throwing their full weight behind the U.K. joining the European Union.
“For me it was easy,” Farage said. “For me, it was a treaty passed 20 years ago called the Maastricht Treaty when John Major was Prime Minister, a Conservative that handed over a significant chunk of our ability to govern ourselves to the institutions of the European Union. For me, that was a watershed moment. I don’t know what your moment is–and hey, let’s not be negative, maybe you can turn this Party around.”
Outsiders loathed by the establishment, UKIP’s brand of conservative populism has been infectious throughout Britain. Farage’s party is now remarkably poised to–depending on how it does in next May’s election for House of Commons seats–become the minority party in a coalition government with the Conservatives, colloquially known as Tories, giving it considerable power.
In the U.S., conservatives have warred with moderates over the soul of the GOP for decades, from the Goldwater era to the most recent fights over Tea Party primary challenges and immigration legislation.
There’s no serious talk in grassroots circles of a third party movement, but Farage said that could change if there’s a “watershed moment”–like the passage of amnesty for illegal aliens into law, or a major policy embraced by the establishment half of the GOP that is in direct contravention to what conservatives believe. Farage said there’s still a fighting chance in the U.S. that conservatives can eliminate establishment-minded Republicans and save the GOP from them, but that time has long since passed in the U.K.
He was a bit circumspect in his recommendations after meeting with a series of high-profile hosts, from Paul and Murdoch to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, and the American Conservative Union’s new chairman Matt Schlapp.
“There’s lots of will and energy to turn these things around, but of course the difficulty is money is very dominant in American politics and a lot of the big donors probably want the Party to play safe whereas the activists don’t,” Farage said. “You’ve got your own battle going on here–I’m not going to intervene anymore.”
While Farage was wrapping up his U.S. tour, President Obama delayed a planned executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. Though GOP leadership had, after prodding from the right, ramped up its criticism of what would have been a brazen rupture with the longstanding constitutional order, a key GOP operative reacted to Obama’s decision in a way that underscored the deep divide in the GOP.
“The president’s empty rhetoric and broken promises are a slap in the face to millions of Hispanics across the country,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ruth Guerra, seeming to attack Obama from the left for his inaction.
“This is more evidence that Democrats never really wanted to fix our immigration system when Republicans were sitting at the table. Immigration reform will continue to be the President’s biggest failure as long as he keeps playing politics and refuses to work with Republicans,” Guerra added. The remark drew quick criticism from Ingraham, who said, “The RNC sure seems crestfallen that President Obama didn’t sign an executive amnesty.”
“It’s not easy, it’s not easy, because the big parties have become part of the establishment with the donors and patronage and with government contracts–all of this actually working hand in glove, so it’s not easy,” Farage said. “But the answer is actually pretty simple: Courage. Courage. You need a leader of the Republicans who’s prepared to say: ‘You know what? We’ll live without this. We’ll get our money somewhere else. We’ll do this differently. We’ll engage the people.’ It has to be done and it’s going to take courage.”
Breitbart News hosted Farage last week in New York and Washington, D.C. in a trip orchestrated by the Breitbart London team which focused on the parallels between the U.S. and British political landscapes. Many observers predict the U.S. will face many of the same cultural and political problems as the U.K. in years to come.
Farage also sat down with Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon for a taped interview that aired Sunday evening on Sirius XM Patriot’s Breitbart News Sunday radio program.
“I think there’s some parallels, some real parallels, between British politics and American politics,” Farage said to kick off the interview with Bannon.
Ten to 15 years ago, I looked at British politics–I looked at the Conservative Party, which I had been supporting, which was suddenly going along with everything Tony Blair believed in. They had both become social Democrats, they had both become completely relaxed about open door immigration, they both thought that climate change was the greatest threat that we faced and therefore we should start covering our green and pleasant land in windmills which don’t work and cost a fortune, and they were both completely relaxed about our membership in the European Union, a supernatural form of government which now makes 75 percent of our laws. We in the face of that got UKIP going, and over the course of the past two or three years, it’s gained some real traction. Despite the fact we have a first-past-the-post electoral system as you do, despite all of that, we’re making some pretty big advances and we’re just on the edge of winning our first seat in the House of Commons which follows up from winning the European elections on the proportion of representation earlier this year. Where you are–we’ve got the fight back. Millions of us have given up on the Conservative Party and given up on the Labour Party and determined we need something fresh.
Bannon followed up with a question about how the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher–both of whom were great Conservative Party leaders in the UK–“have gotten so far away from those roots.”
“Well it’s done it before,” Farage responded. “Because don’t forget, in the 1930s when Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister, we were busy appeasing Hitler–thinking, initially we thought, Hitler was a lovely chap. Then we thought he wasn’t so lovely but we could control him. Parties go through good times and bad times.”
“Same with Thatcher, too,” Bannon chimed in. “Thatcher was not exactly embraced by the Conservative establishment.”
“Oh no,” Farage agreed. “And don’t forget, that Conservatives under [Sir Edward] Heath before her went through a disastrous time. The old guard loathed Thatcher–she wasn’t upper class you know?”
“A grocer’s daughter,” Bannon added.
“Absolutely,” Farage continued. “And that was bad enough, but she was a woman–even worse. There were an awful lot of attitudes there against her. Here’s the difference: In the history of the Conservative Party through its good times and bad, certainly through the first World War, there has never been another political party challenging it. There’s been a battle between differing wings of the Party, but there’s never been a challenger–and UKIP is that challenger.”
“Yes, we’re taking Conservative votes, but crucially, what we’re really taking are the kind of blue collar aspirational voters–when Ronnie Reagan was winning elections here, he got people whose families always voted Democrat to start voting Republican,” he explained. “Same with Mrs. Thatcher–she was getting those who had traditionally been Labour families to start voting Conservative–and UKIP is doing exactly the same thing. So I think why a lot of Republicans in America are interested in me, and what UKIP has done, is that currently–I don’t want to sound rude–your Party has lost its way. It doesn’t know what it is. It doesn’t know what it stands for.”