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PETER OBORNE: Lefties loathe him but the truth is Nigel Farage changed history

By my estimate, only three politicians have made a genuine, enduring difference to Britain in the past 50 years.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that they have very contrasting characteristics.

First, there was Roy Jenkins, Labour’s Home Secretary in the Sixties. He was regarded as the father of the Permissive Society — legalising homosexuality, abolishing hanging, ending censorship, reforming abortion and divorce laws.

Then there was Edward Heath, the Tory prime minister in the Seventies who negotiated Britain’s entry into the nascent European Union (then misleadingly known as the Common Market).

Heath was a disagreeable man and failed in countless areas, but there is no doubt that getting the UK joined to other European countries was a major achievement — albeit with detrimental consequences.

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Farage, who has announced his resignation as the leader of Ukip, has never even been an MP. Yet his political legacy will be far more profound than that of most prime ministers

Third was Margaret Thatcher, the greatest prime minister of the post-war period. She destroyed the power of the over-mighty trade unions, yanked the economy off its knees and restored national pride. We’re still benefiting from her foresight and bravery.

Now, in the aftermath of Brexit, we can add Nigel Farage as a fourth change-maker (to use the buzzword employed this week by Bill Clinton about his wife Hillary).

Farage, who has announced his resignation as the leader of Ukip, has never even been an MP. Yet his political legacy will be far more profound than that of most prime ministers.

I believe future historians will consider him as significant as Roy Jenkins and a bigger figure than Heath.

Consider the facts:

David Cameron would never have called a referendum on Britain’s EU membership but for Farage and the fear of losing votes to Ukip.

The ineluctable fact is that Farage has changed history. One day, there may even be a statue of Farage. I very much doubt there will be one of David Cameron or Tony Blair.

Of course, the MEP is widely hated. I admit that I once called him a ‘notorious loudmouth’.

The truth is that the liberal elite (who, by nature, are slavishly Europhile) have always tried to depict him as a buffoon. But that was a fatal mistake. For Farage is motivated by deeply patriotic values that struck a chord with a majority of the British people.

David Cameron would never have called a referendum on Britain’s EU membership but for Farage and the fear of losing votes to Ukip.
Peter Oborne

Though Farage enjoys a joke and a pint (rather like Ken Clarke on the other side of the European divide), he is a serious politician.

He did not just lead a revolt against Brussels. He was also the leader of a parallel insurgency against the arrogant elite of Westminster.

When he first emerged as a national figure, more than ten years ago, Britain was governed by a cosy cartel. Labour and the Tories may have been separate parties, but they had both been hijacked by a modernising clique who shared many of the same values and beliefs.

Peter Mandelson for Labour and George Osborne for the Tories were the high priests of these modernisers. For them, politics was a game, played for the benefit of a social and economic elite. Both men seemed to disdain the views of voters.

Indeed, together with a group of London-based strategists, they ignored the vast majority of the population and concentrated their efforts on wooing a very small number of voters in key marginal constituencies.

As a result, millions of people — from the West Country to Middle England and Labour’s traditional Northern heartlands and Scotland — were left feeling disenfranchised.

Labour’s betrayal of its Scottish voters was duly exploited by the SNP. It won 56 out of 59 seats north of the border at last year’s General Election, leaving Labour with just one MP (losing 40).

Millions of people — from the West Country to Middle England and Labour’s traditional Northern heartlands and Scotland — were left feeling disenfranchised

 ‘I want my life back’: What is the legacy of Ukip’s Nigel Farage

Apart from this damage done by the Tory and Labour modernisers, they also clamped down on political debate. Fresh thinking was sneered at. Justified fears about levels of immigration were denounced as ‘racist’. The idea that Britain should leave the EU was unthinkable.

Into this gap stepped Nigel Farage. Ignored by most media, he was forced to resort to old- fashioned methods of electioneering that were despised by the modernisers of both parties who relied on slick PR spivs and meretricious campaign techniques.

He addressed public meetings; he knocked on doors; he wore out his brogues pounding the pavements. By doing so, he met voters and listened to their concerns.

He addressed public meetings; he knocked on doors; he wore out his brogues pounding the pavements. By doing so, he met voters and listened to their concerns.
Peter Oborne

This meant that he was able to build a political personality that was a complete contrast to those cocooned in the Westminster bubble. He spoke a language that people could understand. Crucially, he also worked very hard.

For example, I remember dining with him in London ten years ago. He had just travelled from the Midlands, where he had addressed a public meeting, and was due to get up at 5am the next morning to go door-knocking in the West Country.

Such a schedule meant that over time, Mr Farage set himself up as a one-man opposition to the Blairites and Cameroons and their almost-interchangeable policies. Not surprisingly, he won swathes of votes in working-class Labour areas and Tory shires where people felt ignored.

In the 2014 European elections, Ukip won most votes — leaving Labour in second place and the Tories trailing in third.

In last year’s General Election, Ukip got 12.6 per cent of votes (a total of 3,880,000).

This success acted as a springboard for the Leave campaigners in last month’s EU referendum.

Even those who despised Farage and voted for the UK to stay in the EU are, I believe, also in his debt.

For, thanks to him, we witnessed a triumph for democracy — after a deeply worryingly period when it seemed that countless people had despaired of politics and were no longer participating in elections.

Nigel Farage may be standing down as Ukip leader, but make no mistake, he’ll remain a champion of the British people and do everything to ensure that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3715544/PETER-OBORNE-Lefties-loathe-truth-man-changed-history.html

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