So Farage is stepping down as leader of his – third? fourth? – political party to take up a new role in the vanguard of the fight against (a) lockdowns, (b) unpatriotic history – which in this context is what the ‘culture wars’ are all about; and (c) ‘the increasing influence of the Chinese communist party over our whole way of life’. (See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nigel-farage-quits-politics-brexit-reform-party-b1813509.html.) Gosh! I must say I’d not spotted that last one. Does it come in our Szechwan Chilli Chicken and fried rices? I must be more vigilant at our local Chinese take-away in the future. (Actually they’re mostly Thai in Sweden. Are they in the plot too?)
The news of Farage’s leaving the ‘Reform UK Party’ is not unwelcome, of course – he did seem to have a bit of a personal following – although I don’t think RUKP carries much political clout these days. It has too much competition from other groups on the far-Right, including the present-day hi-jacked Conservative party. What is mildly irritating at best, and downright scary at worst, is that he’s threatening to come back again in this new guise, just as Trump is promising to do in America; in the style of all those ‘I’ll be back’ villains in history and in SF and detective novels: Napoleon, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Moriarty, the Mekon (if anyone remembers him); or, if you like, and if you’re of a different political and moral persuasion, Jesus. (Sorry. Deeply inappropriate.) Second comings, while people are congratulating themselves on having seen off the original danger, and are lowering their guards, can be just as dangerous as First comings. The whole modern Neo- (or proto-) Fascist phenomenon, reprising the 1930s in so many ways, is an example of this. Lulled by victory over Hitler and by years of European peace and relative comfort since, and distracted by false threats (mainly the Soviets), few of us saw it coming, at least in such strength. Which was why David Cameron decided to throw his ‘referendum’ dice, confident that the ‘fruitcakes and closet racists’ of UKIP could never prevail. Which of course they did.
The battles Farage intends to fight now, and which one suspects have been his true obsessions for years, are of course the traditional ‘conservative’, reactionary, blimpish and what one historian has called ‘harrumphing’ ones: liberalism, socialism, health and safety, students, political correctness, long-haired men, short-haired women… and so on. They’re all here, in this glorious tirade by ‘Jimmy’, introducing his ‘private army’ to ‘Reginald Perrin’, in the original series of that name: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ-9R6NCZ0A. That’s one of my favourite comedy scenes of all. (It mentions Chinese restaurants too.) The punch-line is delectable. And the late Geoffrey Palmer even looks a bit like Farage.
I have to say that I’m not wholly out of sympathy with Nigel when it comes to the ‘culture wars’. I too am irritated by some of the more way-out aspects of what is called ‘political correctness’, especially – as a historian of the subject – its simplistic view of ‘imperialism’: see https://bernardjporter.com/2021/02/27/imperialism-for-or-against/; but much else as well. I associate these views with callow and ignorant youths, whose hearts may be in the right place, but whose knowledge and reasoning power are sadly deficient, and who are doing harm to the cause of real progress (or whatever you like to call it) by allowing themselves to be used and so easily ridiculised by the anti-progressive Right. I wish they’d shut up; or – better – read up and think a bit before they target (for example) Churchill’s statue. But they don’t merit a ‘war’ being waged against them, when there are so many bigger and more worthy battles to be fought.