Nigel Farage: from Brexit hero to Donald Trump’s little helper
Opinion: Nigel is thrilled to play Danny Glover to Donald Trump’s Mel Gibson
Some say Britain doesn’t make or export things any more. But it did supply Donald Trump with a straight man.
What a thrill to see new life breathed into the buddy demagogue movie in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday night. You only had to look at Nigel Farage’s little face to see how thrilled he was at the chance to play the Danny Glover to Donald Trump’s Mel Gibson. As for Trump, he was all over Nigel’s cheap suit like a cheap suit.
I still find it impossible to imagine Trump touching anyone except his daughter without pulling the full Mariah Carey and screaming for the hand sanitiser the second he’s offstage. But Mr Soon-They-Will-Be-Calling-Me-Mr-Brexit made an excellent fist of embracing Mr Brexit for his crowds of occasionally bemused supporters. A fanfare for the little people ensued.
I’m sure Farage’s life wants him back and everything, but duty calls.
This week found the outgoing Ukip leader shaving off his gap year moustache and going all the way to that America.
He was joined by his backer, Arron Banks - still growing into the role of kingmaker, it must be said - though the pair left their immigrant wives at home, so we were denied the spectacle of a bilateral with Melania. (Incidentally, why do so many of our most frothingly anti-immigrant elite populists seem to have immigrant wives? I find all my non-scientific answers to be entirely unprintable. Perhaps an academic study could put it mildly.)
Initially, alas, Farage’s visit was not without its indignities. Barely hours out from the event, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said she would “highly doubt” reports that such a joint appearance would happen, adding dismissively that the two men “don’t know each other”.
But it all ended in a populist form of triumph, when the day after their appearance in Jackson, Hillary Clinton devoted a passage in her speech denouncing the rise of the alt-right to Farage.
“Just yesterday,” she warned, “one of Britain’s most prominent rightwing leaders, a man named Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum, to have Britain leave the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi.”
If this cast Farage as some distance to the right of Trump, it wasn’t the only carnival mirror moment of the week.
“You’ve got to have some weight to get someone like that to come out here,” judged one member of Trump’s audience of the candidate’s success in pulling off the Farage booking. “It shows Trump is a heavyweight.” Blimey. I hadn’t realised quite how damaged America’s self-esteem was.
That a significant section of people feel left behind by mainstream politics is clear from the rise of populist movements on both sides of the Atlantic. That Trump can make their lives better seems considerably less likely even than Farage being able to do the same.
The only way these two men can show their supporters how much they care about them is to display how much they despise almost everyone else. Yet the suspension of disbelief holds, and shows no sign of breaking in the short- or even medium-term future.
A highly indifferent former City trader cosies up to the bizarre confection of megalomania that is Trump, yet the sense of rebellion against elites among their supporters is real.
It may seem odd, considering he resembles a picture too hideous even for the attic, but Trump frequently reminds me of a line in The Picture of Dorian Gray: “You are the type of what the age is searching for, and what it is afraid it has found.”
There is no need for a word cloud after a Farage event these days, because his shtick can be reduced down to about four phrases that would sound patronising in any less looking-glass a world.
“Little people”. “Ordinary people”. “Decent people”. “Real people”. Farage thinks America’s infinitely superior polling is as out of whack as the UK’s, so you can see why Trump likes him so much right now. But on the off chance that the Donald isn’t triumphantly landing his private jet on Pennsylvania Avenue on November 9th, I’d like to see Trump launch a range of colognes to go with his established lines, Success by Trump, and Empire by Trump. Why not market Little People by Trump, Real People by Trump, Ordinary People by Trump, and Decent People by Trump?
After all, Trump is incapable of having an experience without wondering primarily how it might be monetised.
Persistent rumours suggest he is eyeing the establishment of a rightwing news network, post-election, which would allow him to maximise the opportunity of the audience he has acquired.
Perhaps Farage envisages a role for himself on this putative network. It would be something to fill the time and keep him in a version of the limelight before his inevitable return to lead Ukip - or whatever successor to the party Banks is planning - in time for the 2020 election.
As Farage was saying with hilarious specificity by the end of his own resignation speech: “Let’s see. Let’s see where we are in two and a half years’ time.”
Any Farage show on the Trump network wouldn’t be within four hours of prime time, obviously. I see him in the Alan Partridge graveyard slot - 3am till 6am - taking calls from deranged insomniac survivalists and consoling himself with the thought that there are far higher callings than spending time with one’s family.
Then again, perhaps he prefers the smaller pond. Farage’s failure to go as far as endorsing Trump suggests he has more than one eye on how it might play back where it really matters to him, while his reaction to Hillary’s speech could scarcely have been more UK-centric, leading with: “She sounds rather like Bob Geldof and can’t accept Brexit.” If that line was designed to land anywhere in the States, then Farage probably wants to buy in some new writers.
Still, look at him now - all dressed up and doing the town. As I was sorry to have to observe before the referendum vote itself, all those who voted out for reasons of sovereignty or whatnot would eventually discover that what they really ended up voting for is something embodied in Farage.
A lot of those same people are always complaining we don’t make and export anything in this country any more. I beg to differ: we make desperately grateful straight men for Donald Trump.