Nigel Farage is never going to go away. Never, ever. He’s an omnipresence; like an old red wine stain on the carpet that exacerbates in a certain light. You’ve tried to get him to disappear, each time hoping that this would be the moment you finally wave goodbye. But alas, nada. He will forever be a thing. There isn’t a strong enough upholstery cleaner in the world. He’s a spectral kind of figure; distant, but never for long enough. You’ll find good ol’ Nigel rearing his head when the time suits, gently reminding us that he’s here for the foreseeable, all bug-eyed and smirky.
So, what in the Farage has brought him to the surface on this occasion? ‘Article 50, duh!’
Until about six months ago, I assumed Article 50 was a club in Shoreditch. Or a Damon Albarn side project. Now, it’s everywhere. Open a paper: Article 50. Turn on the news: Article 50. Browse social media: Article 50. Close my eyes to sleep at night: Article 50. Mum’s shopping list: milk, bread, strawberry Nutrigrain bars, Article 50.
Last week, the High Court ruled that parliament must vote on whether the UK can trigger it, meaning that the government cannot begin the country’s formal exit without the support of MPs. While this is unlikely to alter the fact that Britain is waving goodbye to the European Union, it certainly helps confront the opaqueness that has come to characterise the whole process. Most MPs – Remainers included – will vote in favour of triggering Article 50 due to the referendum’s result, non-binding or not; but, they will do so on their terms. This’ll help ease fears of the sinister-sounding “Hard Brexit”, forcing Theresa May’s government to adopt a certain clarity when it comes to their long-term strategy. This isn’t undemocratic. This isn’t wrong. This isn’t “activist judges” rebelling against the will of the common people. This is good.
*Jolting from slumber in a hot sweat, Mr Farage knows something is wrong. The grandfather clock adjacent reads 11am. He checks his phone: 19 missed calls, 37 messages. “Sweet mother of fuck,” he whispers. “It’s happened.”*
*Slowly, he climbs out of bed, rubbing his eyes. He wanders into the bathroom across the hall and stares in the mirror, a vacant expression on his face. After a moment, he reveals a grin.*
*“Old boy, we’re back.”*
Following the High Court’s decision, Farage released a statement. According to the interim UKIP leader, the ruling is “voter betrayal”. Hmm. That’s funny, isn’t it – the notion of betrayal. One might say that it is a little bit on the naughty side. However, if one were to think about it, deliberately misleading an entire nation through lies, fear and misguided bigotry isn’t exactly tip-top, either. In fact, Nige, it’s pretty darn shoddy. Now that one is really thinking about it, you’re a real nasty piece of work, you oily, old fuck. You’ve manipulated a population’s socio-economic insecurities to promote your own selfish, nasty agenda. But you’re the good guy here, aren’t you. You’re the everyman’s champion. Silly me.
Say what you like about him (I often do, because it’s fun), but you do have to admire Farage for what he’s managed to achieve in politics. Somehow, a man who is literally the walking, talking embodiment of the ruling class has managed to masquerade himself as a man of the people. It’s like somebody crossed Enoch Powell with Toad of Toad Hall, but because he’s usually holding a pint, nobody seems to notice that he couldn’t be more part of the metropolitan elite he claims so vehemently to be tackling. It worked, though. Inconceivably, a man that could legitimately pass as the first draft of a Roger Moore-era Bond villain was flying the flag for those without a voice in modern Austerity Britain. He pretty much single-handedly forced a referendum out of it – and we all know where that went.
So that was it. Britain to leave the EU, Farage to leave politics. He’d done it before (a couple of times, most recently following last year’s general election after failing to win the seat of Thanet South), but this time it was for good. “During the referendum I said I wanted my country back… now I want my life back,” he announced. For Nigel Farage, the final box had been ticked. His life’s work complete, he was finally able to retire into the night.
Well, at least you’d think so. But here we are five months later. Nigel still be chirping.
Here’s the thing. Without the EU debate, what would Nigel Farage do? What. Would. He. Do? Start home-brewing lager? Open a game reserve? Write a screenplay? Porn? No. There’d be nothing. He’d be empty. Farage needs the European Union, because while Britain’s role within it still remains a subject worthy of dialogue, he’ll be there; ready, waiting. Remember that bit in The Dark Knight where Batman asks Heath Ledger’s Joker why he wants to kill him? “I don’t… I don’t want to kill you,” he replies, giggling. “What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… you complete me.” This a direct allegory for how Farage and the European Union work: together. They are intertwined, simultaneously reliant on one another. He is its most vocal and venomous critic, but he feeds from it, like a mutant baby suckling from the bureaucratic teat.
That’s why, ladies and gentlemen, Nigel Farage needs Article 50 to be blocked. It’s why he needs an anti-Brexit movement. For him to continue and prolong his presence, he must remain relevant – and this is what allows him to do so. There’s nothing from him to go back to, now. “I want my life back,” he said, back in June. Ah, Nigel. This is your life, now. You’re part of something much bigger than yourself, and you’re hyperaware of the fact. You like it. Love it, even. You don’t want to go back. Why would you. When you discovered that the High Court had passed the ruling, you weren’t disappointed, or angry. You were excited. Thrilled. The bell was ringing. It was the next round. You’re up, Nigel – and you’ll go down swinging.
You’re going to be doing this for a very long time indeed.
Words by Niall Flynn