It's the Nigel Farage Show: former Ukip leader hosts first radio phone-in

Farage pledges ‘it’s all about you’ as he delivers monologues on air – but it’s the promise of a call from ‘Donald in Washington’ that keeps attention on LBC

While Donald Trump turned a broadcasting career into electoral success, Nigel Farage has had to settle for the moment for going in the opposite direction. And, while the president-elect sends his views to millions on Twitter, the former (and possibly future) Ukip leader has opted for the more old-fashioned public platform of a radio phone-in.

On Monday night, the politician who forced the EU referendum that led eventually to Brexit hosted his first talk show on the 7-8pm slot on the LBC radio station. He will appear on the station from Monday to Thursday, leaving Fridays free for fishing or attending the inaugurations of friends who have become US president.

Unusually for a presenter, Farage was quoted in the 7pm news bulletin for his views on Monday’s London Underground strike. His show started with a sort of a capella jingle where a number of people name-checked him – all pronouncing his surname slightly differently culminating in a shout-out from Trump.

“This show is all about you!” Farage declared – although this remark paradoxically came in the middle of an opening monologue lasting several minutes. The show’s format seems to be that Farage throws out a question a night and the first was: “Is Theresa May holding her cards [on Brexit] too close to her chest?”

Should you ever be asked in a pub quiz who the first ever caller to The Nigel Farage Show was, the answer is Sarah in Clapham. She felt the PM was holding the deck at exactly the right distance but Farage disagreed. And Pip from Waltham Cross agreed with him: “Oh, dear. I voted Brexit and am becoming increasingly dismayed with Theresa May’s spectacular failure to launch.”

Almost all the callers were Brexiters, unhappy with the present occupant of No 10 – and some were keen to suggest an alternative. Caller Carla argued: “We should have a Ukip government, Nigel, with you leading the negotiations.” Tony from Canary Wharf said: “You have changed world history.” Interestingly for psephologists, Tony described himself as a socialist – a Canary Wharf down a coalmine for the left, possibly.

LBC began life as a London-only station but digitalisation has opened it up to the world. Richard, calling from the Philippines at 3.20am local time, was a remain voter who wanted May to move more quickly. Catherine in Dallas said she would be worried if she were a British Brexiter. The chorus of approval was interrupted only at the very end by Chris from Manchester, who asked how Farage felt about duping the working people of Britain into voting for something that was bad for them.

As Nick Clegg discovered when he underestimated Farage in TV debates before the European parliamentary elections in 2014 and again before the 2015 election, the Ukip man is a fluent and clear speaker. He sometimes swallowed mid-sentence, and was occasionally slushy, with Facebook coming out as “Faishbook.” But the hour passed quickly, helped by lengthy sections of adverts and trails for other LBC shows – possibly so that Farage could pop out for a fag.

He can’t, though, fill four nights a week baiting May over Article 50. The test will be whether he can sustain his own and his listeners’ interest for an hour on the NHS, Syria or (Monday night’s actual headline story) the collapse of the Northern Irish government.

My guess is that LBC is gambling that Farage can deliver an interview with Trump, and his promise to present the show “from around the world” hints that he might be productive in Washington DC even if he doesn’t become UK ambassador there. Strikingly, Farage’s main UK rival for a Trump interview is Piers Morgan, who works for ITV’s Good Morning Britain, and Theresa May gave her first interview of 2017 to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Monday. BBC and ITN must be feeling nervous that political broadcasting is getting broader.

Given how rude Farage was about the PM in his closing monologue (claiming she lacks the “energy, excitement or flair” to lead the country), “Theresa from Westminster” seems very unlikely to call The Nigel Farage Show. But the fact that “Donald from Washington” coming on the line cannot entirely be ruled out should ensure continuing focus on a show that, in its first episode, felt rather one-note.


Mark Lawson

The GuardianTramp

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