Would Nigel Farage be Hitler or Stalin in Brexit 'non-aggression pact'? | John Crace

Brexit party leader offers to back Boris Johnson – but only if the PM unleashes no deal on Britain

A bell tolled five times and then a loud, heavy metal drumbeat played through the PA system of the main hall of the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster. Five-hundred prospective Brexit party parliamentary candidates rose as one to greet their messiah in the very building where he had announced his retirement from frontline politics just three years earlier. Nigel Farage milked the acclaim as he slowly walked down the aisle from the back of the auditorium.

“Are you ready?” he yelled when he finally stepped up on stage.

“We’re ready,” came the response.



But ready for what? Farage’s stated aim is for him and his party not to exist. To be an irrelevance. Yet everything he does reeks of someone who can’t bear anonymity. The thought of being the lonely pub bore, tugging on a Rothmans in the outside smoking area, handing out dodgy share tips to any unlucky passerby, scares him. He needs the attention. And with every new reinvention of himself, he becomes ever more grandiose. And terrifying.

Back in his Ukip days, Farage could connect with people by not appearing to take himself too seriously. For this second coming, everything about him feels slick and manicured. He has become the very embodiment of the establishment politician he claims to despise. The professional populist, surrounded by acolytes and opportunists, who feeds off misery and only really feels alive when he is at the centre of a well-orchestrated rally where candidates have been seated by region.

Though much of his betrayal narrative is still very familiar, the goalposts have steadily been shifted. First it was enough for the country to have voted to leave the EU. Now only the hardest of hard Brexits will satisfy him. And even if that were to be on offer then he would probably find some reason to reject it. Because a perfect Brexit would only spiral him back into obscurity. The Platonic ideal is not on his agenda.

With the audience whooping at the end of every sentence – NI-GEL, NI-GEL – Farage moved to the business in hand. Basically, he was pretty pissed off with Boris Johnson. Not just for having nicked most of the Brexit party’s policies – cancelling HS2, not handing over the £39bn we owe the EU and being a bit more beastly to foreigners by cutting the aid budget – but for being the better snake-oil salesman. He just couldn’t bear it that he was still niche while Boris was now mainstream.

So here was his offer. He had assembled 500 of the brightest and the best of the Brexit party’s crack troops – step forward Jay Aston from Bucks Fizz. And fingers crossed none of them turned out to have posted racist comments on social media in the past. He was ready to take on the Tories at the forthcoming election if Johnson showed any sign of trying to palm off any version of Theresa May’s deal, with or without the backstop, on the country.

But if – and only if – Boris was prepared to go full no deal then Farage would support him by offering a “non-aggression pact”. Here the rally threatened to go full Nuremberg. It wasn’t clear if Farage saw himself as Hitler and Johnson as Stalin or vice versa, but the previous non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in August 1939 hadn’t ended particularly well for Poland. The UK had voted for Brexit and the people were going to get the Brexit they were given whether they liked it or not. For poorer or for even poorer. Boris and Nigel would carve up the country between them. A new sovereign state that would last for 1,000 years or more. The election to end all elections. Prorogation would be a small price to pay for Brexiters taking back control. And the EU would have to bow before us because without the UK they would be nothing. The cheers were deafening. In this new world order, Farage would achieve immortality. Possibly even divinity.

Elsewhere, there was the merest hint of a rebel alliance with a cross-party agreement to block no deal and a no-prorogation declaration at Church House. Its only fault was that it all felt too polite, too rational, too parliamentary.

Too little even, as no one can agree what happens next after no deal. Revoke article 50? A second referendum? May’s deal? Or some other, as yet unspecified deal? No one knows. Which makes the opposition parties and Conservative no-deal refuseniks all too easy for demagogues such as Johnson and Farage to pick off one by one. Brand them as traitors, enemies of the people, and the job is done.

Westminster politics is getting uglier by the day. The opposition needs to wise up and learn how to play dirty.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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