Nigel Farage’s Influence on Next Conservative Leader Grows as Party Wakes Up to Classic Values

Delegates pose for a photograph with former Leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage (C), at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northern England, on October 2, 2023. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
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Brexit leader Nigel Farage believes he is impacting UK politics more effectively as a news anchor than as he did as one of the most impactful political campaigners in modern British history, as he makes a surprise appearance at the annual conference of the governing Conservative Party.

Nigel Farage, whose Brexit campaigning has been a major factor in the downfall of two Conservative Prime Ministers has attended that party’s annual conference for the first time in 30 years, causing a minor sensation and sparking discussion of what this means for the Tories. Farage has been banned from the annual meeting for 30 years by his own reckoning since he left the Conservatives to campaign for Brexit with UKIP, but returns now on a journalist’s badge with broadcaster GB News and was “mobbed” upon his arrival.

Although present as a journalist himself Farage was pictured as being swamped by reporters upon his arrival, and grabbed more headlines later on Monday for partying with top Tories late into the night, including singing karaoke, a British political conference tradition. While joking he only turned up “to cause mischief” when speaking to state broadcaster the BBC on Tuesday morning, Mr Farage said his presence and his warm reception didn’t signify a softening of his views — the Conservative Party in its governance has been considerably to the left of not just Mr Farage but many of its own voters — but rather that the party was coming round to his way of thinking.

He told the BBC’s Nick Robinson: “I’ve been very consistent with the things that I’ve said over quite a long time. I’ve never really shifted from those views, whether it’s regards borders, increasing population, attitudes towards small business, net zero, taxes. What’s interesting is there’s now a wing of the Conservative party that has woken up to these things and they’re now saying them.”

Mr Farage also agreed with the reporter’s assertion that he with his new employer, the broadcaster GB News, might have an impact on what direction the Conservative Party goes next, the Brexit leader responded: “I think that’s already beginning to happen” and that he was being more effective in that as a broadcaster than an elected politician.

The BBC’s man Robinson observed it was remarkable that Farage was being “being treated not as an enemy, but as a hero” by Conservative members at the annual meeting despite the gulf between the Brexiteer and those Tory elites who run the party, and spoke to veteran Tory blogger Tim Montgomerie who expressed his view that Farage has a strong connection to rank-and-file party supporters.

He told the BBC: “[Farage] does really appeal to the heart of the Conservative Party, rather than just the head. If he was able to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party, every fiber of my body tells me he would actually win. He still reaches the Conservative Party, they regard him as a hero. He’s the person they think brought the country back from Brexit.”

British right-leaning tabloid The Daily Mail quotes a Conservative source who told the paper Farage would easily win a Conservative leadership election were he allowed to stand, but that it would never be permitted by the party elite.

Although Conservative in name, the UK Tory Party has been in power for 13 years and most observers would likely agree has broadly failed to achieve much that is recognisably conservative in that time. Richard Tice, the leader of the Reform Party that Farage founded calls then ‘Con-Socialists’ in allusion to the left-wing policies the Tories have actually implemented, in defiance of their promises to the public at election time.

Farage said on Tuesday morning: “It’s funny. The Conservative party is full of people who want it to be conservative. They’ve just had 13 years of government where it hasn’t been conservative… we’ve had 13 years of taxes rising, 13 years od spending rising, deficits rising. 13 years of small businesses being hampered more and more, 13 years of record levels of immigration”.


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