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Nigel Farage Hands UK Tories a Gift

Usually, the leader of a political party has to choose between helping his own cause or helping someone else’s. They almost always want to do the former, meaning we assume doing the latter is in error (or “a gaffe”). Nigel Farage, trying once more to enter Parliament (now as leader of the Reform Party), had the rare chance to do both. He took it.

Last week, Farage reminded everyone that he is the most Russia-curious leader in the UK. The press treated it as an outrage (which it was) and a massive own goal (I’ll get to that). Here’s Ryan Coogan from The Independent with an example:

Unfortunately, gluttons for punishment that we are here in the UK, we’re addicted to Nigel and his poorly thought out [1], scribbled-on-a-Wetherspoons-napkin approach to policy. And boy oh boy, did he drop a doozy on us yesterday, as he used his undeserved time in our country’s media spotlight to seemingly justify Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I stood up in the European parliament in 2014 and I said, and I quote, ‘there will be a war in Ukraine’,” said the Reform UK leader [2], speaking to Nick Robinson on a special election BBC Panorama show. “Why did I say that? It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say ‘they’re coming for us again’ and to go to war.”

Everything that comes out of Farage’s mouth seems to be said with the aim of provocation first, and coherent policy a distant second. He’s a radio shock jockey who somehow made his way into politics. Every outrageous statement he makes on this campaign trail should be accompanied by the sound of a flushing toilet and an advert for car insurance.

Granted, the Independent is not a paper read by Farage fans. The Telegraph [3]has long been more sympathetic to Nigel, but to on this.

It looks to me as if Nigel Farage and the Reform party have just blown their chance to become a major voice in the British Parliament. The suggestion that the West “provoked” the tyrant in the Kremlin into launching his bloody war in Ukraine is utterly wrong-headed.

Of course, I certainly agree Farage is “wrong-headed” on this. I would also note that his I-told-you-so moment is not what it seems: Farage said, “Do we actually want to have a war with Putin? Because if we do, we are certainly going about it the right way.” More to the point, he actually said it in September 2014 [4], after Russia had invaded eastern Ukraine pretending to support local thugs. Farage didn’t predict a war; rather he was denying one that had already started, parroting Putin’s propaganda at the same time.

As for the effect on Reform’s chances on July 4th (yes, the UK is holding an election on our Independence Day), I think the UK consensus – such as it is – is wrong. I agree that Farage likely helped the Tories that he loves to torment; I also think he helped himself.

The Conservatives have done a terrible job providing any convincing reasons to keep them in office; their opponents are doing that for them. First was Labour refusing to match [5] the guarantee of increased defense spending by 2030; now, there’s this. Angry center-right voters who support Ukraine are flatly unwelcome in Reform, making them more likely to stay Tory (if they vote at all). That should shore up Conservative support in what until this year would have been considered safe seats.

However, Reform can now reasonably claim they are the only party for anti-Ukraine/pro-Moscow Britons. There aren’t nearly enough of them to win a national election (Thank God) but there are more than enough to get Reform a bushel of MPs. They can even pull in horseshoe-theory [6] leftists looking for an “anti-war” option. After all, Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway can’t run in every constituency.

It is a rare move that helps both yourself and your political opponents. Nigel Farage made that move. We’ll see how much help it provides to either group on the 4th.