Sanwar Ali: additional reporting and comments
Controversial political figure, Nigel Farage, has reportedly quit party politics for good after leaving his role as leader of Reform UK. Farage, a fierce opponent of UK immigration and the European Union (EU) will be most remembered as being a major force in persuading 3.8 million people to vote for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2015 General Election, and for persuading more than half of UK voters in 2016 that Britain should leave the EU.
However after his departure from UKIP, many would say that the party became extreme right-wing and racist. One somewhat bizarre appointment was far right Tommy Robinson as a "grooming gangs adviser" by a former leader of UKIP Gerard Batten. UKIP was largely successful in what they set out to do. That is for Britain to leave the EU. Perhaps Mr Farage realises that there is nothing more for him to do in politics.
Farage applied huge pressure to then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to call a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU just nine months after the election. The British public voted to leave the EU in 2016 in a landmark vote that will go down in political history.
While Farage, who has long campaigned to reduce UK immigration numbers, plans to leave party politics, he said that he wants to continue influencing the debate through social media and guest appearances.
Future of right-wing politics
Farage’s exit from party politics, combined with the completion of Brexit, has now raised questions over the future of right-wing politics in the UK. Farage has been a constant figure of right-wing politics for close to 30 years, having started out as a member of the Conservative Party.
He left the Tories after apparently becoming disillusioned with the party following John Major’s signature on the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht. Farage was reportedly furious with creating closer political ties with the EU and so formed UKIP a year later in 1993.
Farage would go on to be elected to the European Parliament in 1999 and was the UKIP MEP for South East England, becoming one of the main EU sceptic voices in the UK.
In 2006, Farage was elected leader of UKIP and immediately set his sights on restructuring what was a ‘fractured’ political party. He also offered an alternative approach to the three main political parties on UK immigration, in that he wanted to reduce the number of foreign nationals coming to Britain.
However, while Farage claims to have quit party politics for good, he has a history of swiftly returning have stepped away. He had resigned from UKIP on three previous occasions, but was encouraged to return amid spearheading some of the party’s biggest successes in politics.
In the 2015 General Election, despite claims that he was ‘demonising immigrants’, UKIP managed to secure 12.6% of the popular vote.
With Farage departing, questions now loom over who will lead Reform UK in the post-Brexit era. Richard Tice has initially taken over from Farage, but those in the political circle says that Tice ‘lacks the public persona of Farage’. Although he carries the same anti-EU and immigration beliefs as Farage, there are doubts over how he will take Reform UK forward.
It remains to be seen whether Farage has left politics for good, but what is clear is that he divides opinion. Some have labelled him a xenophobic extremist because of his views on UK immigration and his hostility towards immigrants, while others see him as a straight-talking freedom fighter.
His influence on modern British politics is undoubted and filling his shoes has been described as a ‘sizeable task’.
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