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  • Jakob Reid

Be warned, Nigel Farage’s divisive politics will be disappointing to us all

By Jakob Reid

Nigel Farage’s decision to return to the frontline of British politics by standing in Clacton, returning as leader of Reform UK is more than just a personal political comeback; it is a signal that the divisive, populist rhetoric he champions is far from over. Farage’s re-entry into the political arena should be a cause for concern, as it threatens to reignite the polarising dynamics that have already left a deep scar on the UK’s political and social landscape. On top of this though, is the enabling that Farage has done, and I believe this will ultimately lead to disappointment for his voters.

Farage’s political career is marked by his unyielding commitment to Euroscepticism and his talent at tapping into the discontent of the electorate. His role in the Brexit referendum cannot be overstated, managing to turn what was initially a fringe issue into the defining political question of a generation. The aftermath of the Brexit vote has lead to a period of profound division and uncertainty for the UK, with Farage himself often fanning the flames of discord. His return suggests that these divisions are likely to be exacerbated, not healed.

Standing in Clacton, Farage is revisiting a constituency that symbolises his impact on British politics. Clacton was the site of UKIP’s first parliamentary victory in 2014, a moment that marked the rise of Farage’s brand of populism. This constituency has been fertile ground for Farage’s message of anti-establishment and anti-immigration rhetoric. His decision to run there is not just a nostalgic move but a calculated effort to reignite the sentiments that propelled him to prominence. With rising deprivation and poverty, as a constituency, Clacton represents a part of the UK left behind by governments, creating the opportunity for figures like Farage to capitalise on discontent.

Farage’s return, therefore, is worrying not just because of his views, simplifying politics, but because of what he has been enabling. His political approach thrives on creating an “us versus them” narrative, inherently divisive, fostering a climate of distrust and hostility. For someone who professes to love the UK as much as Nigel Farage does, he has arguably been front and centre at its decline.

"The aftermath of the Brexit vote has lead to a period of profound division and uncertainty for the UK, with Farage himself often fanning the flames of discord. His return suggests that these divisions are likely to be exacerbated, not healed."

Moreover, Farage’s track record shows a willingness to exploit fears, capitalising on a lack of political awareness and engagement, for political gain. The infamous Brexit campaign poster depicting a long line of refugees with the slogan “Breaking Point” is a stark example of how Farage’s tactics can stir up panic, with even former Conservative Chancellor at the time, George Osborne, claiming it reminded him of 1930s fascist propaganda. Whilst of course we should place focus on the role of this divide, I also think it is crucial to focus on Farage’s role in enabling a wider attitude towards politics.

As said, Farage’s influence extends beyond his immediate electoral ambitions. His success in normalising issues around immigration and identity have dramatically reshaped the broader political landscape. There has been, whether you like it or not, a shift to the right in UK politics, with both Sunak and Starmer both placing emphasis on border security this election. This ideological shift has only served to increase the marginalisation of many groups, as well as the broader polarisation of politics. 

The economic and social repercussions of Farage’s politics also warrant concern. The simplistic solutions he offers, such as strict immigration controls and a return to “common sense”, fail to address the fundamental issues in the UK that Farage himself points out. In Whitehall for example, many rightly critique the bureaucracy and slow progress in terms of reform, however I hardly believe placing more “common sense” individuals in positions of power will change things, the system itself is broken, it's not just an issue of poor management that can be solved with Lee Anderson as Home Secretary, or Nigel Farage being on a boat in the English Channel pointing out crossings to a baying mob on GB News.

To address climate change, inequality, failings in public health, among other things, we need genuine reform, not just rhetoric, or the harking back to a proclaimed past that arguably never existed. Farage’s tendency to reduce complex issues to simple slogans and scapegoating prevents the kind of nuanced policy discussions necessary to tackle these challenges effectively.

In conclusion, Nigel Farage’s return to frontline British politics should worry us not because of his personal political ambitions, but because of the broader implications for the UK’s political and social landscape. In addition to any entrance to Parliament for Farage bringing even more possible divide and division in the UK, I think focus should be placed onto what he will enable. Farage’s views can appeal to a lot of disenfranchised people, not just those who voted for Brexit, with promises of tax cuts and a return to “common sense” pragmatism in government. However, I believe that these policies, and the accompanying rhetoric, is creating a voter base for Farage and his party, that, without real reform happening within the UK political system, could lead to concerning outcomes.

Image: Flickr



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