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Nigel Farage: A politician who calls his supporters out onto the streets whenever things don’t go their way is not a politician worth listening to (©GETTY IMAGES/MATT CARDY)

It is now ten years since Nigel Farage was first elected UKIP leader. He may be the UK’s most divisive major political figure, but his decade at the top of the party cannot be described as anything other than a thumping success.

Despite the party’s ineptitude at converting votes into Members of Parliament, UKIP’s electoral record during the Farage era speaks for itself. In the 2005 general election, UKIP, led by the long-forgotten former Conservative MP Roger Knapman, won 605,000 votes (2.2 per cent). Just nine years later, they won the elections for the European Parliament. In the 2015 general election, some 3.9 million voters (12.7 per cent) plumped for Farage’s “people’s army”.

Of course, Farage can claim success in a deeper sense: the UK is on its way out of the EU. Seventeen million people voted to leave the EU on June 23 and while his role in winning a majority of voters around to the idea of leaving is moot, he is more responsible than anyone else for squeezing a referendum promise out of David Cameron in the first place. Without UKIP’s noisy ballot-box insurgency, there would not have been a referendum, and without Farage, things would have been decidedly less noisy.

Farage’s long anti-Brussels campaign was so effective because of his keen nose for the mood in parts of the country not reached by almost any other politicians. Beyond his hard-line Euroscepticism, Farage’s views are malleable and he has been able to fold various grievances into UKIP’s ideological mix. The most important ingredient he added was the anti-immigration sentiment that other parties were reluctant to capitalise on. When interviewed for Brexit Revolt, the book my Standpoint colleague Michael Mosbacher and I wrote about the referendum, he pointed out that immigration did not get a single mention in any of his campaign material before 2004. EU enlargement brought with it Eastern European immigration to Britain on a scale that the Labour government failed to anticipate. He added that he had spent the last ten years trying to make “immigration and EU membership synonymous”. It does not take much as the leader of a Eurosceptic party to make political gains from discontent at increased levels of immigration when the main direct cause of that surge is EU membership. (Farage was helped by the Cameron government, which, with the forceful encouragement of the then Home Secretary Theresa May, made and then repeated a pledge to cap net migration, something it could not have control over as long as the UK remained an EU member state.)

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Sir William Cash MP
November 28th, 2016
5:11 PM
Oliver Wiseman is right. Westminster can and must be trusted on Brexit. Campaigns outside Westminster are an intrinsic part of our national politics. However, the implementation of the Referendum result must be resolved in Government and Parliament itself. Furthermore, none of the external campaigns during the Referendum itself on either side were lessons in propriety. Nor did UKIP play an exclusive role as some have claimed. The battle against the EU, the Government and the Establishment has been conducted for decades by Conservative backbenchers, with the assistance of some principled Labour and DUP Members of Parliament, to regain our parliamentary sovereignty and to unchain this country from European government. There would have been no Referendum if these Members of Parliament had not successfully fought in the House of Commons consistently and relentlessly from Maastricht onwards. It was extraordinary that the Vote Leave campaign even attacked Westminster Members of Parliament on its website. This totally failed to recognise that it is in Westminster and for Westminster and thereby for the people themselves through their representatives that the battle for parliamentary sovereignty had to be won. It was Westminster which passed the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and transferred the right of decision from Parliament to the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. Westminster must now implement this sacred and historic decision. UKIP has not managed to achieve more than one Member of Parliament. It cannot be said that UKIP itself forced David Cameron into the manifesto commitment for a referendum. It was 81 Conservative MPs in a crucial vote against a 3-line whip, as a culmination of battle after battle and Referendum Bill after Referendum Bill which forced the issue. UKIP played their part as did Nigel Farage but contrary to current conventional wisdom, it was not UKIP alone by any means who achieved the result. It was the British people and their innate democratic instincts who won. The General Election results of 2015 and the votes cast in the Referendum prove the point.

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