Fireworks and Farage: Reform UK leader brings anti-immigration political cabaret act to Clacton’s theatre

Nigel Farage packed out a theatre on Tuesday night in the centre of the Essex constituency where he is running to be the local MP

Reform Party leader Nigel Farage speaks to an audience on stage at Princes Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea, England. Photograph: Getty Images

Surely the timing would be a true indicator of Nigel Farage’s ability to pull a crowd. Could the Reform UK leader really draw in enough punters at 7.30pm on a Tuesday evening for a town hall-style political rally in the Essex seaside resort that is at the heart of his insurgent campaign?

The answer was delivered in emphatic style a five-minute walk down the road from the train station in Clacton, where in the July 4th general election Farage will bid to become an MP at the eighth attempt. Two long queues – one for those with tickets, one for those without – curled out the front door of the Princes Theatre, which had a capacity of more than 820 people. Inside it was already packed.

The theatre usually hosts acts such as the 80s Live tribute group and also Dreamboys: Stripped Back, a Chippendales-style group of muscled strippers due to perform at the Princes next month, according to posters on the railings outside. On Tuesday it hosted the man who, as he later reminded his adoring crowd, had just been voted the sexiest politician in Britain, that is if you believe an internet poll conducted by a publicity-seeking website for people who have illicit affairs.

Reform Party leader Nigel Farage arrives to speak at a 'Meet Nigel Farage' event in Clacton-on-Sea Photograph: EPA

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The warm-up act inside the attractive old theatre was David Bull, the medical doctor and former Brexit Party MEP who is now Reform’s deputy leader. The crowd roared in agreement as he said their country was “falling apart”. Bull told them the strain of immigration was mostly to blame. They roared even louder, lapping up this simplistic but now-popular diagnosis for all the ills of Britain.


Then Farage made his big entrance from the back of the venue, walking down the steps to a hero’s welcome and through a forest of handshakes to a backing track of Eminem rap music.

His arrival onstage was heralded by the eruption of two huge sparkler fireworks, similar to those used when people exit the jungle in the I’m A Celebrity television show that boosted Farage’s fame last December. A tolerance of snakes clearly was not the only thing he learned from his participation.

A phalanx of beefy security guards lined the arena and lurked near the stage to make sure there was no repeat of incidents such as the one a couple of weeks ago when Farage was doused in milkshake outside a Clacton pub. Security at the Princes Theatre was so tight that the guards wouldn’t let even members of the press bring in water bottles: they were confiscated at the door. Bizarrely, they even took one reporter’s bag of crisps.

Farage, in his ever-so-slightly camp Carry On style as orator, played the punters like a fiddle, drawing from them comical boos and cheers as he went through his by-now familiar routine. I’ll be your political warrior – cheers all round. What about the BBC – boo from everybody. The incompetent Tories – a louder boo. Immigration is to blame for everything and we must stop it – cheers galore.

Supporters wave banners as Reform Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at a 'Meet Nigel Farage' event in Clacton-on-Sea Photograph: EPA

Farage called four hitherto-Tory councillors on to the stage. Jeff Bray, Peter Harris, Richard Everett and James Codling had all just defected to Reform, he announced. He answered a few soft soap audience questions that were drawn at random from a bucket by Bull, like a political raffle. Then the event wrapped up as Farage signed autographs from the crowd that was allowed to surge forwards to the edge of the stage. Whatever else he might be, Farage is a consummate showman.

Shortly afterwards, down past all the all the amusement arcades and at the entrance to Clacton pier, a few of the attendees gathered in the Moon and Starfish pub, the JD Wetherspoon group outlet outside which Farage had been hit with a milkshake a couple of weeks earlier.

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Two men sat drinking pints with Reform posters propped up against their table. Adam Green, a middle-aged man from the Essex town of Weeley, and Phil Taylor, a slightly older man also from Essex, were both adamant that Farage would make a better MP for the area than Giles Watling, the Tory incumbent who is fighting to retain his seat under the Reform onslaught.

“He’s intelligent, he knows what he’s about and I’d trust him more than those Eton boys,” said Green, a Brexit supporter who said he would never vote Tory again.

Taylor said he was actually opposed to Brexit, but he still felt Farage would make a good MP for the Clacton-on-Sea constituency in which both of the men lived. “As for Brexit – we don’t have to agree on everything,” he said.

Most polls put Farage clearly in the lead in Clacton and he is favourite to win the seat on July 4th. It remains a three-horse race, however, with the Labour candidate Jovan Owusu-Nepaul still in with an outside chance of coming up through the middle if Farage and Watling eat into each other’s voting base.

But if Farage’s adoring fans can bring their energy from the Princes Theatre to the polling booths of this seaside constituency, there will be only one outcome.