Milkshaken, but not stirred...

Jun 04, 2024By Pete North


What makes elections fun for a blogger is that your best analysis of the facts can be completely scrubbed off the board in twenty-four hours. And then a day later, it all changes again. Predictions are unwise yet we keep making them. Events are certainly keeping things interesting. 

Farage being back in the game certainly upends any narratives about Reform and I’m having to recalibrate some of my thinking. I had written them off, but it’s worth gaming some of the possibilities. 

As I understand it, the Clacton MP, Giles Watling, is a hugely popular MP in the constituency and has a massive majority. To come from nowhere and take him down is a massive task in its own right. Neither the Lib-Dems nor Labour have much of a following, so basically Farage has to hope that he can carve out what's left of Watling's vote after subtracting the stay-at-home vote. Clacton is winnable for Farage this time. 

His presence also changes the arithmetic for Reform. In normal circumstances, Reform would still be looking at zero seats, but if the Tories do nothing to recalibrate their offer to the public, the levels of Tory voter absenteeism could gift a handful of seats to Reform. 

These are unusual circumstances where Farage hasn't particularly enhanced his appeal, rather Rishi Sunak has done everything possible to make his party unelectable. That will be the curious tale of this election - in that most MPs, especially on the Labour benches, owe their jobs to apathy rather than an explicit mandate. 

In these circumstances, Farage could very easily eclipse the Tory party as he becomes the focal point of hate from the new influx of young Labour wokelings and Islamists. In these conditions, they're not going to make it a very pleasant environment, Farage. I expect they will ringfence him the way they did Galloway, while the Tory leadership will be keen to keep him at arm's length. They will attempt to bog Farage down in parliamentary disciplinary procedures, at which point he becomes even more of an anti-establishment, anti-politics figurehead.

I suspect, then, with the left being as unhinged as it is, that Farage will have to double up on personal security. The establishment within parliament will make it abundantly clear that they see him as an interloper, and hold him morally accountable for any violence at Tommy Robinson demonstrations - the same as they tried to pin the murder of Jo Cox on Brexiteers. 

The reason for this is that his presence will force them to have debates they would rather not have. That will be interesting because the Tory wets will have to work out where they stand, lest they be passive spectators making an irrelevance of themselves. As such, Farage will be the de facto leader of the right in parliament. 

Meanwhile, the presence of newly elected Islamists will make this the most fractious parliament we have ever seen. They will seek to paint Farage as "far right" and the Tories will probably throw him under the bus. They're not going to let Farage capitalise on his election, and you can expect the media to paint him as the new Nick Griffin. Both the Tories and Labour will bombard Clacton with a view to unseating Farage in 2029. I think we will see a combined establishment effort to keep Reform from making further gains, and it will expose the whole system in its full rotten glory. 

For some time now I've been saying the Westminster establishment is entering its final chapter, but it's going to be a fight to the death. The 2029 election will see every dirty trick in the book, meanwhile political Islam will continue to rise in power and influence, reinforced by continued immigration, possibly eclipsing Reform. From here on, politics is going to take a dark and dangerous turn.

On that score, public debate will drift far to the right of Farage. He could very easily alienate his own supporters by being too soft on immigration. He has already disowned Reform’s policy of offshore detention, and is sticking to Richard Tice’s Net Zero immigration policy. His position isn’t realistic enough for opinion formers, but too soft for hardliners. Farage is such a bundle of contradictions that he could self-destruct within a week.

Ironically, Farage does not enjoy the support of the “far right” on this. Farage is willing to push the boundaries but will only go so far. Not far enough according to some. It’s just not his natural inclination. 

The point people miss about Farage is that he did not come to politics campaigning on immigration. Ukip from inception was a Brexit party, and we did NOT talk about immigration, and we had a zero tolerance policy on BNP members joining. If anyone raised immigration at party conference, they would very rapidly change the subject because Farage was adamant that Eurosceptics must not be labelled racist. In that respect, we were a politically correct party. 

What changed was when the BNP scored a million votes at the 2009 euro elections. As soon as Farage recognised there were MEP seats up for grabs in the north as BNP was disintegrating, he changed Ukip policy overnight and banged on about immigration.

He subsequently conflated EU freedom of movement with open borders, which is why so many people believe the Brexit referendum was an immigration referendum. It wasn't. It was always specifically to do with leaving the EU and immigration was the issue to get it over the line. 

Ever since, Farage has been out of his depth because he never felt strongly on the issue one way or the other. He’s one who operates on autopilot, and if he's talking about immigration, the specific immigration topic is a best guess... and obviously he picks on the small boats and Muslims because it's topical. He spouts whatever the last person he spoke to about it said to him. Ultimately, he will stay within the safety margin of acceptability, and he will always stop short of anything radical unless public sentiment gets there before him. He trails public opinion. He does not lead it.

The question on my mind is whether Farage will step up to the plate when it comes to confronting the rise of political Islam. He went to considerable lengths to distance himself from Ukip when the party sought to become the vehicle for anti-Islam sentiment. It may be that even in his current incarnation, he’s too politically correct and timid for the job. 

This matters because we're seeing history repeat. In 2019 Farage blathered about a "points based immigration system" instead of advancing a comprehensive and detailed immigration proposal that examined all the threads of it. The Tories then created their own interpretation. Fast-forward to now and Reform is bleating about "Net Zero immigration", which the Tories will then endorse as the populist approved benchmark policy, and then we're still importing 600,000 people a year and back at square one.

Ultimately, policy must address itself to the problems, and this is no longer just a case of managing the influx. We have a very real problem with garbage immigration that isn't needed or wanted, and contributes nothing. That case is very easily made and understood, and the remedy suggests itself, but that may just be too rich for Farage’s blood, and once again, the right will have been led up the garden path.

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