Funny and fiery, Farage went off like a rocket

By Quentin Letts


'Free of the usual guff': Nigel Farage

'Free of the usual guff': Nigel Farage

Arriving in Birmingham, I saw my first Ukipper near the railway station. He had plum-coloured trews, a blue blazer, a pound brooch on his lapel and balding suede shoes. Oh, and a splendid pot tummy.

As the bulldog in Tom and Jerry used to say, ‘that’s mah boy!’

Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage would later, in an energetic if brief speech, talk about how he had not endured ‘20 years of hard work, sacrifice and much mockery’ only to ‘sell the party short’ in a possible deal with the Conservatives.

Mr Farage spoke without autocue. His speech was funny, fiery, commendably free of the usual guff from politicians. One of life’s unbridled tonkers, is our Nigel.

But his bruised mention of being mocked was interesting. Why is this party teased? Is it simply because its activists have sometimes tended – if they will permit the gross caricature – to have flapping trousers, wall eyes and a problem keeping their breakfast egg on the fork? Or is it because Ukip questions the Establishment consensus? Prophets are always scorned.

There were no metal detectors on the door. European Council president Hermann van Rompuy missed a chance. He could easily have swanned in with a giant stinkbomb.

Attendance was pretty good but there were none of the normal, smart-suited lobbyists you find at other party conferences, although the Campaign for Real Ale had set up a trestle table. A Ukip merchandise stall was flogging not terribly special jubilee mugs for £19 a go. Blimey!

Nor was there the usual flotsam of protest groups and single-issue campaigners outside the door of the conference, shoutily dispensing leaflets. Perhaps that’s because Ukip is, at heart, still a single-issue campaign itself.

The day began with a welcome from a West Midlands Ukip chap who had trouble with the sound system. A ‘wheeeee!’ went up from the stalls. Hearing aids.

Party president Jeffrey Titford went next. His delivery was so comically wooden, I wondered if it was Harry Enfield under that oiled hairdo.

Mr Titford, who referred to the Prime Minister simply as ‘Cameron’, said that the Lord Mayor of Birmingham had been asked to open the conference but the fella hadn’t turned up.

We heard from ‘the young people’ – they are cherished like fresh conkers. A larky lad with sideburns so long they could have been drainpipes. Two beaudelicious belles: a blonde who could have been starring in a shampoo ad, and an Indian in an amazingly tight skirt. Well, hel-low. An old gent near me smacked his gums.

Former Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read did a turn, as did Lord Hesketh. He gave us a history lesson and spoke in such a drawl one might have been excused for suspecting he had been at the whisky decanter. Most unfair, I am sure.

Mind you, when pugnacious Godfrey Bloom spoke he said it was the first conference speech he had given when he had not been hungover. Mr Bloom, who is standing against Lord Prescott for the Humberside police commissionership, proposed giving police the right to debag anyone who in future behaved like Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

Snortingly unPC, Mr Bloom said that some of the current rules faced by the police were plainly ‘drafted by a committee of the retarded’. Whoaa. He said coppers should stop driving top-of-the-range BMWs and start driving humble Hyundais.

Under him there would be no more traffic cameras, and any officer who arrested a householder for defending his home against burglars would be immediately put on disciplinary procedure. The Tories should come to a deal and give Mr Bloom a free run against Lord Prescott. A straight contest between those two would be tremendous entertainment.

Average age in the audience was probably a good 65 and most of them were blokes. I saw a skull cap, a few tattoos, walking sticks, Union Jack ties, a tartan flat cap and parmesan tinfuls of dandruff.

Mr Farage’s warm-up man was Former TV newsreader Kenneth Kendall. Oh no, hang on, it was former newspaper proprietor Lord Stevens, who has just defected to Ukip from the Tories.

Golly, he was dull. He had been introduced as ‘a giant of Fleet Street’  but ‘crashing bore with too much to say for himself’ might have been more accurate. The crowd wanted Mr Farage, and when he finally wrenched the lectern out of Lord Stevens’s hands, he went off like a rocket.

Smaller government, no to Brussels, no to Trident, off with the Human Rights Act’s head – a Ukip conference is in some ways a rightwinger’s political erotic dream. They certainly cement David Cameron in the centre ground.

The problem is that the activists radiate a quite different culture from that of 21st century’s media commisars. The speeches yesterday were unremittingly, almost exuberantly negative. In their logic and drive they have been impressively correct about Europe, and possibly much else. It’s just hard to see how voting Ukip will bring about anything but an Ed Miliband government of crazed lefties.


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The more ill-informed comments and insults about Nigel Farge, the more people will join UKIP. It has always been so with the British; they vote for the underdog! The idea seems to be that UKIP have no chance of being in power. Really? In my own lifetime that was also thought about the Labour Party. But I seem to recall a certain Tony Blair, and another with no chance called Clement Attlee. UKIP is a young Party, not so long ago Labour was a "young Party". Keep the insults coming! They can only be good for UKIP!

Click to rate     Rating   29

The G'vner of the Bank of England has just said that leaving the European Union would make no difference to the UK. Right out of the horses mouth so to speak. So, what are we waiting for Dave? I reckon the old boy is wrong. Leaving would make a great difference to our country. No more stupid EU rules and regulations. We would have to send millions of our quids to a lost cause of wasters in Brusels; our Parliament would be run by our people and not by a load of duffers in Europe and British jobs would be exclusively for British workers.

Click to rate     Rating   25

"The bigger the lie the more people will believe it" - as some Austrian said.

Click to rate     Rating   8

Farage is deluded. Does he honestly believe his claim that leaving the EU will result in no loss of British trade or jobs? Does he honestly believe that the UK will be allowed to enter a "Swiss style" trading agreement with the EU once we've walked out in a huff? (Switzerland still have to pay in billions in contributions and comply with many EU Directive as part of their agreement.) Does he really believe that the £6.9 billion net contribution (less than 1% of total government spending) will pay for the hundreds of billions extra spending pledged?

Click to rate     Rating   43

Another interesting policy of theirs is to privatise the NHS. To quote their 2010 manifesto: "Encourage County Health Boards to put out to tender key NHS services ranging from Long Term Care to local hospitals and GP surgeries. This will be done by franchising key services ¿ run on a fixed budget ¿ to charitable associations, not-for-profit and profit-making private companies, partnerships and individuals."

Click to rate     Rating   40

HEY, IS HE TAKING THE MICKEY OUT OF UKIP SUPPORTERS OR WHAT ???? I read the article twice and it's such a mish mash of contradiction that I'm just not sure... Oh and if some of the old fogeys are boring, so what. They may lack the acting abilities of the present career politicians but give me bores any day rather than useless pontificating liars !

Click to rate     Rating   36

He's just an ultra right-wing Tory toff - ex-public school and ex-Oxbridge, who was a City fat-cat before he started making a highly lucrative living by sponging off the European Parliament. He's no different to Cameron, Osborne and the rest of them, apart from being more right-wing than Thatcher.

Click to rate     Rating   72

He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy for being a hypocrite and taking millions in salary and expenses off the EU.

Click to rate     Rating   73

The alternative at the moment to an Ed Milliband government of crazed lefties is a Cameron-Clegg government of crazed lefties so I¿ll vote anything but Con-Lab-Lib.

Click to rate     Rating   38

In my opinion Mr Farage is the great person for the job of Prime Minister. Period. Cheers from Canada!

Click to rate     Rating   64

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