Is Nigel Farage’s magic disappearing? On Question Time last night (his 15th appearance in four years) the Ukip leader was taken to task by an audience member who asked him to ‘stop scaremongering the majority of people’ — followed by the kind of rousing cheer that Farage himself used to draw.
The Tory defence minister (and former TV anchor) Anna Soubry finished off the attack with an impassioned defence of immigration, in language that Farage usually uses to attack it. This left him flummoxed. Here’s what she had to say:
‘You do not talk facts, you talk prejudice. You scaremonger, you put fear in people’s hearts. Times are tough, we know that. But when times are tough, there is a danger and history tells us when things are not good, you turn to the stranger and you blame them. And you shouldn’t. That is wrong and I’m proud of our country’s history. I’m proud that people come here, these are good people. Sometimes not all of them are, like people in our country, but they come here to work
Nor was Farage on vintage form at our Parliamentarian of the Year awards yesterday. Although some ribbing of the establishment and the crowd is to be expected, his remarks were seen by some as rather graceless:
‘I know that nearly all of you in the room despise Ukip and that’s absolutely with fine by me. I’m jolly well going to make sure at the European elections next year, even more of you despise me, Ukip and the many millions who are going to vote for us’.
Just a few months ago, Farage announced he was taking a step back from the television microphones to ‘get a grip’ on Ukip. Instead, he’s just undertaken a mini-tour of UK theatres for ‘An Evening with Nigel Farage’ — some of which I understand drew the sort of audiences Ukip had five years ago (i.e. rather small ones).
Every party leader can have bad days. But not every party is so dependent on the star quality of its leader. Farage is placing a very large bet on the potency of his cheeky chap persona. If this wears thin, what’s left of Ukip?