Nigel Farage's Trump-Inspired Revolution in British Politics

What did Nigel Farage learn from the American right? Politico on Brexit Leader Mimicking Trump in Destroying Britain's Center Right

by Sededin Dedovic
Nigel Farage's Trump-Inspired Revolution in British Politics
© Carl Court / Getty Images

"Here he is. Here’s my Nigel!” Donald Trump beamed when he welcomed one of the first visitors to his office after being elected as President of the United States in 2016, Politico recalls in its analysis. That infamous meeting in November 2016 cemented a lasting alliance between the two most recognizable and divisive figures in Western politics.

The two men have long shared affinities. Both are products of establishment elites who repositioned themselves as political outsiders. Both have overturned received wisdom about the boundaries of respectable politics. And both have been astonishingly successful – despite powerful forces opposing them.

“This is the most resilient and bravest person I have ever met!” Farage beamed to Trump’s supporters at a 2020 re-election rally in Arizona, standing alongside the then-president.

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, right, invites United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage to speak duri© Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images

Now, as the extraordinary election campaign in the UK nears its end, Farage is taking a page directly from Trump’s playbook.

His aim is nothing less than to usurp the center-right Conservative Party, one of the oldest and most resilient blocs in the British political system. Farage threw a hand grenade into the UK campaign last month when he announced he would run with the goal of taking votes away from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tories.

The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system means that a startup party like Farage’s Reform UK is unlikely to win more than a few parliamentary seats. However, as he gains in the polls, Farage is positioning Reform UK as the “true opposition” to the future Labour government (Labour is expected to win power on July 4).

In this mission, Farage has drawn inspiration not only from Trump but also from a range of radical right-wing forces in the United States and Canada. Even Farage’s party manifesto – launched last week – has an American flavor, renamed the “contract with the people”.

The idea is drawn from the “contract with America” of former U.S. President Newt Gingrich in 1994.

Newt Gingrich© Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

Admiration is mutual. Gingrich told Politico he welcomes Farage’s appropriation.

“I am honored that he is using it” and noted that Reform UK is not the first foreign party to echo Gingrichian rhetoric. “My favorite was the ‘contract with Mongolia’ in the 1990s,” Gingrich said.

Known for his bombastic speeches

Farage, a Euroskeptic member of the European Parliament for 20 years before Brexit, was known for his bombastic speeches long before Trump successfully ran for the White House. Farage even claims that Trump “learned a lot from me” and that he “watched my speeches in the European Parliament many years before deciding to run”.

However, Farage has recently amplified aspects of his rhetoric that are distinctly Trumpian, dismissing his opponents as naughty and boring. While Trump mocked “Sleepy Joe,” Farage has started to choke whenever he refers to Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Raheem Kassam, a former Farage aide who attended the meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 – and who now edits the right-wing news platform National Pulse – claims that the two leaders have learned a lot from each other.

Farage, he said, absorbed from Trump the “importance of production value, scale – I think you’ve seen that really applied in things post-Brexit, where Nigel has held big rallies with pyrotechnics”.

In the other direction, Kassam said, “there are many people in Trump’s campaign who watched what Nigel does,” citing Trump aide Stephen Miller as someone who relied on elements of Farage’s speeches.

Trump’s inner circle sees Farage as part of the former president’s outer orbit, a group of allies who push Trump’s agenda and defend him publicly on podcasts or other public events. Specifically, Farage is a close ally of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who runs the War Room podcast and is currently facing a four-month prison sentence for defying a Congressional subpoena.

Trump and Farage also have a shared history at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – an annual meeting of global right-wing activists – where Trump first addressed in 2011, and Farage in 2013.

Farage confounded the audience with criticisms of the European Union but honed his message by 2016, promising a “pushback against the globalists and those who would destroy everything we’ve ever been”. Since then, he has been a regular speaker, and in 2022, he was spotted at a private party after the conference in Dallas.

Farage has also grown close to former Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy. Farage interviewed Ramaswamy on the British right-wing outlet GB News and praised his ideas on the X network.

Takeover Tactics

In the past, Farage’s various right-wing political vehicles – first the UK Independence Party (UKIP), then the Brexit Party, and now Reform UK – have managed to put the Tories in awkward positions.

If Farage wins his first parliamentary seat on July 4, and Reform UK secures a significant share of the vote, it could pave the way for a serious inroad into the Conservative Party.

American Brexit