Poor, poor Nigel Farage. In any ordinary week, his consolation prize for missing out on a knighthood would be the Gerald Ratner Golden Knuckleduster (0.002 carat; touch it for a second, have a rash for a month) for Most Cataclysmic Instant Rebranding.
This is no ordinary week, however, and the Oscars finale robs him of another title he did more to deserve it than its actual recipients. When Woody Allen was asked how he would most want to be reincarnated, he said “As Warren Beatty’s fingertips”. Now those fingertips will be remembered less for gliding over Hollywood’s most desirable women (check out the A-Z lists) than for grasping a card reading “Best Actress, Emma Stone, La La Land” while their owner gazed out sheepishly at the millions observing his bemusement around the world.
For all that, you wouldn’t want to underplay the damage dealt to the Farage brand by the latest model to roll off the inexhaustible factory line of Ukip superfiasci. Nigel is furious with Douglas Carswell, the party’s lone MP, over the latter’s efforts to stop him getting the knighthood Nigel deems his due reward for Brexit.
He has been furious with Carswell ever since that erstwhile Tory MP defected and won the Clacton by-election under the purple banner. He patently regards Carswell as an effete intellectual ponce, and his ambition to detoxify Ukip by moving the focus away from immigration as a treacherous affront to himself. That fury has boiled over with the leak of emails showing Carswell being mischievous when he was asked to help get Farage a knighthood by Malcolm Pearson. If that entrant on the capacious honours board of Ukip farceurs escapes you, it was Pearson who, when leader of Ukip, denied having read his own manifesto before the 2010 election in a tone implying he wouldn’t have the bloody thing in the house.
This genius is so loyal to his predecessor and successor on the Ukip iron throne that he originally hoped to wangle him a peerage. When that plan was abandoned for one of two reasons – either 1) Nigel would have had to quit as an MEP, which he didn’t care to do, or 2) “The noble Baron Farage of Whiteseville in the County of Albinoshire”? Are you pulling my bell end? – his thoughts turned to a K.
In late December, Pearson asked Carswell to report on how his knighthood lobbying was going. “As promised, I did speak to the government Chief Whip,” emailed Carswell. “Perhaps we might try angling to get Nigel an OBE next time round? For services to headline writers?” The cheeky bleeder well knew how Farage would take the idea of an OBE. For guidance on this, we turn to a late expert on etiquette. “An OBE is what you get,” said Michael Winner on refusing one in 2006, “if you clean the toilets well at King’s Cross Station.”
But surely, you must be thinking, mainline termini toilet cleaners are the kind of people for whom Farage fights the good fight? Wouldn’t an anti-establishment warrior, who in the US on the weekend cited the Brexit-Trump axis as the start of a “global revolution”, prefer a humble OBE to show solidarity with ordinary folk? Isn’t a knighthood the emblem of how a self-serving political class rewards its cronies and donors? Could there be a tawdrier mascot for a decadent establishment than a K?
Apparently there could. And so Nigel’s man of the people schtick (never that convincing, but not as laughably exposed as now) can be seen spinning clockwise towards the reputational U-bend.
The rotten luck here for dear Nige is that there was no recent precedent of a populist icon who, after presenting his public work as wholly altruistic, was caught petulantly screeching about being denied a knighthood. Had there been, it would have warned him that rampant hypocrisy and a glaring sense of entitlement can incinerate any brand. Instead, the latest Ukip golden balls-up since Paul Nuttall’s Walter Mitty tribute act finds Farage screaming in print that Ukip will collapse unless Carswell is expelled from the party.
This is a pretty useful working definition of political nihilism. I’m no Stephen Hawking, but you needn’t be Lucasian Professor of Mathematics to master this equation: if you have one MP, and you subtract one MP, what you’re left with is nil MPs.
Nigel Farage's most controversial moments
Nigel Farage's most controversial moments
1/12 When he unveiled that 'breaking point' poster during the referendum
Mr Farage was accused of deploying “Nazi-style propaganda” when he unveiled a poster showing Syrian refugees travelling to Europe under the next “Breaking point”. Users on social media were quick to compare the advert to a Nazi propaganda film with similar visuals and featuring Jewish refugees. The poster was particularly controversial because it was unveiled the morning of the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox
2/12 When he said he’d be concerned if his neighbours were Romanian
In May 2014 Mr Farage was accused of a “racial slur” against Romanians after he suggested he would be concerned living next to a house of them. “I was asked if a group of Romanian men moved in next to you, would you be concerned? And if you lived in London, I think you would be,” he told LBC radio during an interview. Asked whether he would also object to living next to German children, he said: “You know the difference”
3/12 When he said the EU campaign was won 'without a bullet being fired'
Nigel Farage has said the next Prime Minister has to be a Leave supporter
4/12 When he resigned as Ukip leader and came back days later
After failing to win the seat of South Thanet at the general election, Nigel Farage stepped down as Ukip leader – as he had promised to do during the campaign. Days later on 11 May he “un-resigned” and said he would stay after being convinced by supporters within the party. We’ll see how long his resignation lasts this time
5/12 When he blamed immigrants for making him late
Mr Farage turned up late to a £25-a-head ‘meet the leader’ style event in Port Talbot, Wales in December 2014. Asked why he was late, he blamed immigrants. “It took me six hours and 15 minutes to get here - it should have taken three-and-a-half to four,” he said. “That has nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a country in which the population is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be”
6/12 When he wanted to ban immigrants with HIV from Britain
Mr Farage has used his platform as Ukip leader call for people with HIV to be banned from coming to Britain. Asked in an interview with Newsweek Europe in October 2014 who he thought should be allowed to come to the UK, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.” He also repeated similar comments in the 2015 general election leadership debates
7/12 When he defended the use of a racial slur against Chinese people
Defending one of Ukip’s candidates, who used the word “ch**ky” to describe a Chinese person, Mr Farage said: “If you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you're going for?" When he was told by the presented that he “honestly would not” use the slur, Mr Farage replied: “A lot would”
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
8/12 When he said parts of Britain were ‘like a foreign land’
The Ukip leader used his 2014 conference speech to declare parts of Britain as being “like a foreign land”. He told his audience in Torquay that parts of the country were “unrecognisable” because of the number of foreigners there. Mr Farage has also previously said he felt uncomfortable when people spoke other language on a train
9/12 When he said the British army should be deployed to France
At the height of trouble at Britain’s Calais border Mr Farage proposed a novel solution. The Ukip leader called for the British army to be sent to France to put down a migrant rebellion. “In all civil emergencies like this we have an army, we have a bit of a Territorial Army as well and we have a very, very overburdened police force and border agency,” he said. “If in a crisis to make sure we’ve actually got the manpower to check lorries coming in, to stop people illegally coming to Britain, if in those circumstances we can use the army or other forces then why not”
10/12 When he said breastfeeding women should ‘sit in the corner’
Mr Farage sparked protests from mothers after he told women to “sit on the corner” if they wanted to breastfeed their children. “I think that given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that's not openly ostentatious,” Mr Farage said. He added: "Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be”
11/12 When he said the gender pay gap exists because women are ‘worth less’
At a Q&A on the European Union in January 2014 Mr Farage said there was no discrimination against women causing the gender pay gap. Instead, he said, women were paid less because they were simply “worth far less” than many of their male counterparts. “A woman who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off - she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away because that client base won't be stuck as rigidly to her portfolio,” he said
12/12 When he said he actually couldn’t guarantee £350m to the NHS after Brexit
During the EU referendum campaign the Leave side pledged to spend £350 million a week on the National Health Service – claiming that this is what the UK sends to Brussels. Nigel Farage didn’t speak out against this figure and also pledged to spend EU cash on the health service and other public services himself. Then the day of the election result he suddenly changed his tone, saying he couldn’t guarantee the cash for the NHS and that to pledge to do so was “a mistake”
Advocating for a parliamentary strength of zero is an eccentric way to hammer home the message about Brexit restoring parliamentary supremacy. So if Carswell is kicked out, one hopes Nigel will have another crack at becoming an MP by standing against him in Clacton.
Eighth time’s a charm – and if he does finally plant his bum on the green benches, it would only be the beginning of the rapid surge to Downing St that would end, as it does for all male ex-premiers, with the choice of knighthood or peerage.
Don’t take my word for it. “Farage will make a fine UK Prime Minister. Looking forward to that,” tweets David Duke.
Lose a knighthood, gain the admiration of a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan… Swings and roundabouts for plain Mister Nigel there as the crazy hurtling of the Ukip rollercoaster leaves it clinging to relevance by the tips of its fingers.Reuse content