The shambassador's reception: tycoons are spoiling Nigel Farage

Ukip figurehead feted with pyramids of Ferrero Rocher at the Ritz after political year he could describe as eccellente

He has had, by any measure, a barnstorming year. And on Wednesday night, guests arriving at a party thrown in Nigel Farage’s honour at the Ritz were greeted by pyramids of Ferrero Rocher chocolates in a joking reference to Donald Trump’s eyebrow-raising proposal that the Ukip leader should become Britain’s ambassador to the US.

Farage’s allies, including the Barclay brothers, who own the Ritz and the Telegraph newspaper, and Arron Banks, who spent £7.5m on the Leave.EU campaign, threw the reception for 120 guests to mark a year that has seen Farage help secure Brexit and become one of the first politicians to be granted an audience with the US president-elect.

Over English sparkling wine supplied from Lord Ashcroft’s Gusbourne winery in Kent and canapes of coronation chicken and roast beef, Farage’s achievements were celebrated by a crowd that included Tory Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Mills, the businessman and Labour donor.

Farage told the gathering that Britain had a problem. “In America the revolution is total. Not only have the people spoken and won, but the old administration, Obama and all those ghastly people, are out and the Trump people are in,” he said.

“In this country, the people have spoken but the same players have just been shuffled around the chess board and we are still being run by the career professional political class.

“I am not sure what is going to happen over the course of the next couple of years but I suspect there’s another big seismic shock in British politics perhaps going to come at the next election.”

Farage added: “I suspect that the Conservative party is not fit for the legacy of Brexit. I suspect there is going to be a genuine realignment of British politics over the course of the next three or four years ... There are great battles to be fought and I’m going to go on fighting those battles.”

To cheers the MEP, who was first elected in 1999, declared: “For those of you who aren’t particularly happy with what happened in 2016, I’ve got some really bad news for you – it’s going to get a bloody sight worse next year.”

Farage ’flattered’ by Trump’s call for him to be US ambassador

Farage said on Tuesday it was “a bolt from the blue” that Trump had suggested on Twitter he should replace the British ambassador in Washington, Sir Kim Darroch. While Downing Street has rejected the suggestion, Farage insists the UK government should exploit his established links with Trump’s inner circle, including with his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

“Arron and a few others wanted to thank him for Brexit and everything he has done and we’ve invited an eclectic mix of friends that he wanted to have a Christmas drink,” said Andy Wigmore, a Belizean diplomat who is communications director of Leave.EU. “He has had a hard year and done a good job and we wanted to thank him.”

David Davis, the secretary of state for Brexit, was invited to the drinks. The drinks were paid for by Banks, Wigmore, Richard Tice, a property developer who co-founded Leave.EU, and Lord Pearson, a Ukip peer.

The ambassador’s reception

“The Ferrero Rochers are very important,” said Wigmore. “We have done them in pyramids and the going-away gift is a box of Ferrero Rocher. If we are going to take the piss out of him – Ambassador Farage – we may as well do it properly.”

Guests included the Ukip donors Jim Mellon, an Isle-of-Man-based tycoon, and Paul Sykes, the Yorkshire businessman. From Labour, Kate Hoey, who campaigned for Leave.EU, and Mills were expected.

Invited journalists included the Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn, Simon Heffer from the Telegraph, Andrew Pierce from the Mail and Isabel Oakeshott, who worked on Banks’s EU referendum campaign book Bad Boys of Brexit.

Ukip MEPs include the leadership contender Paul Nuttall and Mike Hookem, who was last month involved in an altercation with his colleague Steven Woolfe.

Wigmore was part of Farage’s delegation to meet Trump shortly after the US election result. He told the Guardian that the suggestion Farage should become ambassador stemmed from a desire in Trump’s team to push back against criticism Farage had been receiving in the UK.

“They are fully aware of the bullets Nigel has been taking,” Wigmore said. “His people felt very enthused that he could be useful going forward and saw what was happening in terms of the criticism and thought, you know what, he would be a good person to have.

“Protocols and bureaucracy for [Trump] are the worst things in the world because it stops things happening,” said Wigmore. “When we were in the meeting he was very passionate about wanting to make things happen and getting things done. He said: ‘I don’t want to have to go through talking shops and endless meetings about meetings when things could happen.’ Like a businessman, he makes a decision, thinks it’s a good idea and pushes it out there.”

Asked if that was how the tweet about Farage becoming UK ambassador happened, Wigmore said: “Yes. He thinks he would be useful to the United Kingdom and the United States.”


Robert Booth

The GuardianTramp

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