Nigel Farage: The many faces of the Ukip leader by the people who know him best
We look at the many different facets of one of British politics’ most contentious faces
Thursday 22 May 2014
Nigel Farage is one of the most pilloried and widely talked-about politicians running in today’s European elections.
His appetite for stirring up a controversy knows no bounds; his impressive ability to deliver the most contentious, often offensive, sound bites is endless. But where did it all go wrong for the scholarly Dulwich College school boy?
We look back on his life and examine his many personas, from father to flatmate, husband to (alleged) womaniser – according to the people who know him best in a vain attempt to find out.
As a schoolboy...
Farage received mixed reviews while at school at Dulwich College. He was scholarly and sporty with a penchant for rugby and cricket, and he was a member of the politics society. His final school report says that the fee-paying college "would be a poorer place without this boy's personality". But not all his teachers viewed him fondly.
Chloe Deakin, Farage's English teacher, begged the college’s then head teacher not to appoint him as a prefect because of his "neo-fascist" tendencies. She also recalled how he once marched through a quiet Sussex village late at night shouting Hitler-youth songs at a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) camp, organised by the college.
"Another colleague, who teaches the boy, described his publicly professed racist and neo-fascist views; and he cited a particular incident in which Farage was so offensive to a boy in his set, that he had to be removed from the lesson. This master stated his view that this behaviour was precisely why the boy should not be made a prefect." Farage going about his duties at the New European Parliament Building in Strasbourg France in July 1999.
As a flatmate...
"His lifestyle is appalling," said his friend, MEP Godfrey Bloom, who is now his ex-flatmate.
"He'd be the first to admit it. He drinks too much red wine and he smokes too much.
"Unless I can persuade him to slow down - and nobody else has succeeded - he won't have a future. He'll fall off his perch."
As a husband...
Bloom later revealed that Farage has a "weakness for women". An unlikely ladies man if the rumours are true, the UKIP leader has never dismissed the label.
He has been married twice and met his wife, Grainnes Hayes, after he was run over by a car in Orpington. He sustained severe injuries and was hospitalised, and Hayes acted as his nurse. They went on to have two children together.
They divorced in 1997, a year after Farage met his current wife, Kirsten Mehr, while on a business trip to Frankfurt.
"My marriage, which had been on ice and torpid with its claws bound for so long we had both forgotten it was alive at all, finally expired," he dramatically wrote in his memoir.
He remarried again in 1999 and his first memories of his wife, who then worked as an interpreter for a German bank, are flowery to the say the least.
"She was a stunning government bond broker whose brisk efficiency at first sight belied her ethereal appearance," he wrote.
"She could have stepped into a pre-Raphaelite painting no questions asked. A promotional shot, in which Farage bears an uncanny resemblance to The Simpsons' Mr Burns "
As a boss who hires his own wife...
Mehr was born in Hamburg, and gave up her city job to take on the unenviable task of becoming his secretary. She writes all his emails, because he dislikes using a computer. However, his foreign wife hasn’t taken a British person’s job (a bugbear of Farage’s), because, as he perhaps accurately points out, "no one else would want that job".
She is a proud of her German roots and likes to provoke her husband during England v Germany football games by draping her country’s flag over their garden fence in Kent.
"It winds Nigel up quite a bit," she said.
"I take the mickey when we win. And because that is usually what happens, Nigel doesn’t get much chance to come back at me. The best he can manage is that silly old song, "Two World Wars And One World Cup."”
She maintains a low-profile and sits quietly in the audience during Ukip conferences. She works from home, having previously described her husband’s Mayfair offices as a "freak show". Boris Johnson once described her as "the brains behind Ukip". Annabelle Fuller with Farage at a Ukip meeting in Windsor
As an (alleged) womaniser...
However, their marriage has been blighted by rumours of his infidelity.
In 2005, reports emerged of him having a seven-times-a-night tryst with a Latvian woman, rumours which he denied, but for which he was nevertheless allegedly applauded by members of UKIP with a can of 7UP. Farage recalled meeting the woman in his memoir.
"I met her in a pub and accepted her invitation home for a drink," he wrote.
"She was sleek and seductive and I will not splutter that after the first bottle I would necessarily have behaved like Sir Galahad."
In 2006, he was accused of having an affair with 32-year-old colleague Annabelle Fuller. Both Farage and Fuller have vehemently denied the allegations.
As a father...
Farage seldom discusses his family in public. What we do know is that he has four children – two with his former wife, Samuel and Thomas, and two with his current wife, Victoria and Isabelle.
His eldest son, Samuel, is an Exeter graduate and joined him at a spring conference his father was speaking at in March 2013. Thomas Farage is a city trader and was last year given a police caution, having been arrested for being drunk and disorderly in the Square Mile in April. They’re both in their early twenties. His daughters are both under the age of 15.
He admits that his family life has been put under strain due to his job.
"People who tend to be very successful in some aspects of their lives fail in others," he said in August last year.
"I have spent far too little time with my children and family."
He said that he failed to give them the "sense of stability" that they would have had with two parents.
"In an ideal world children benefit from having some sense of stability with preferably two parents and not one," he said.
"And that really, for more than the last decade, has not been the case with me." Outside a polling station in Biggin Hill, Kent, during the European and local elections
As a colleague...
Farage didn’t go to university. Instead, he started his career as a commodities trader in the city, where he met friend Steven Spencer. He was apparently popular in his workplace.
"My first impression of Nigel is an unorthodox, happy, cheerful guy - outspoken and humorous," says Spencer, speaking to Radio 4's Profile.
"When I worked as a customer of Nigel's I would wander into a smoke-filled room, with tobacco smoke about 4-ft from the floor, with a bunch of very happy traders [and] good chemistry around Nigel.
"There'd always be a very politically incorrect atmosphere that just relaxed everybody."
However, not everyone has a glowing review of working with him. Nikki Sinclaire, who used to work for Ukip but resigned because of the alleged extreme right-wing reviews of some of its members, has less than favourable memories of her former boss.
In 2010, she won a sex discrimination case against her former colleagues, after she was expelled by Farage for refusing to sit with the party's allies Liga Nord in the European Parliament.
"He points the fingers at other people and pretends to be clean himself, but Mr Farage is a well-known manipulator and bully," she told The Independent in March.
The future for Farage...
Farage hopes that Ukip will "win" today’s elections, although he admits chances of the party winning the 2015 General Election were "entirely ridiculous, moonshine". His focus is, rather, replicating the success of the Lib Dems under Paddy Ashdown.
"Who knows, we may get the balance of power if we get that right, and if we do there will be a referendum, whoever's in government," he said.
Whether his dreams become a reality remains to be seen, but, unfortunately for many, it looks as if there will be no stopping Ukip’s most famous and most determined leader to date, regardless of how much he is vilified, sworn at or egged.
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