Nigel Farage is the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, also known as UKIP. UKIP has stormed onto the political scene over the last few years. In March, UKIP received more votes than any other party in elections for the European Parliament. The party stands for keeping the British pound and enhancing British sovereignty, usually at the expense of the European Union. The parallels to the Tea Party in the United States are obvious, and so are many of the same political fault lines.
I had the chance to sit down with Nigel Farage today in Washington, D.C., to interview him for PJ Media. My impression was that Farage, unlike so many pre-programed, scripted and cautious politicians, was deeply sincere about what he said. He spoke with a gleam in his eye, and a passion for what he was saying. It was the sort of refreshing breeze sorely lacking sometimes on both sides of the Atlantic. My interview with Nigel Farage:
Adams: What are you doing here in the United States?
Farage: Firstly, just to reacquaint and broaden my connections with the Republican movement, because there were no Democrats worth seeing unfortunately. Then, your State Department has got this EU project wrong; if we ever get more immersed into Europe, you’ve lost your best ally. So there is a political purpose for me being here, to keep that pressure moving. Of course you aren’t getting it from the Conservative Party. You have wave after wave of Conservatives coming over here, but they support the bloody EU project, and I don’t.
The second reason for coming here is I’m meeting with some business people, some of whom have subsidiaries in London as well.
Adams: You’ve seen the comments by the government that they were going to withdraw the passports of folks in ISIS who are Brits . . .
Farage: . . . That’s not what they said at all. They said they’d like to do something. I said two weeks ago, we don’t want these guys back in Britain. Once again, Cameron just mirrors everything I say because he realizes the public agree with me. He worded it beautifully, he’s brilliant. He said he would like to take away their passports, knowing full well that the European Court of Human Rights won’t let us do it.
Adams: Then you have Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat MP, and Dominic Greive, the former Conservative Party Queen’s Counsel, complaining it would be inhumane to take away the passports of Brits fighting for ISIS. What does that say about the Conservatives’ and Liberal Democrats’ ability to counter this ISIS threat?
Farage: Whether it is inhumane is a subjective human decision and frankly not relevant to our conversation. Whether it is possible under a European Human Rights Charter is a much more important point. Again and again and again, what we see is a British government that cannot do anything about it.
And another result [of this Charter] is votes for prisoners. Cameron said it would make his stomach turn to give prisoners the vote. And yet, before long, we will have to give our prisoners the vote because the court in Strasbourg says we have to.
Adams: This is an issue in the UK?
Farage: Yes, yes. The British Parliament has voted against it. But it is how the British Parliament no longer works. We’ve surrendered ourselves to a set of supernational institutions and courts who have the ultimate say.
Adams: I was in London over New Year’s. Everywhere I went, you would have thought you were in Moscow or Bucharest. You hear Russian everywhere. What’s going on?
Farage: Of all the European countries, we have been the most open and welcoming of different cultures and people who come into our country. Much of it, of course, was a consequence of the result of the British Empire. When the British Empire broke up, we owed a bit of a debt to people who sent their troops to fight beside us. West African regiments, blokes from Jamaica. We had net immigration into Britain of about 30,000 a year for about 40 years. It’s now running at a quarter a million a year. It’s now running at a number that is completely out of control. And there is nothing we can do about it; we are impotent yet again because we are in the European Union and we have a total open door to southern and eastern Europe.
This above all is the issue that has brought the sovereignty point home to the people of Great Britain. It’s what has put UKIP on the right side of the argument.
We want to …[manage] the quality of the people who come into our country so that immigrants to our nation are for the betterment of our society. It’s very interesting because on this trip I’m hearing echoes here in America. I am hearing echoes of the similar arguments we were having five or six years ago.
Adams: Folks I’ve talked to in the United Kingdom almost don’t recognize the country anymore. There’s a line in the Pink Floyd song “The Post War Dream” [from their 1983 album The Final Cut] ill-aimed at Margaret Thatcher, saying: “Maggie what have we done, Maggie what have we done… to England?” But my question to you is, what have Labour and the Conservative Party done to England? What’s happened the last thirty years?
Farage: They have damaged our communities. They have changed our way of life for the worse and in many cases almost beyond recognition.
Adams: Is it beyond repair?
Farage: We will get our country back. We will get our sovereignty back. We will get out of this European project and get back to being a parliamentary nation. But we will be a nation with huge divides. And that makes me very sad.
Adams: There has been latent and sometimes very open anti-Semitism on the streets of London and antagonism towards Israel. What does UKIP have to say about that sort of open activity in London?
Farage: Oh! Anti-Semitism is trendy again. It’s quite an age, Cherie Blair. The left have very much taken one side of the argument. We support as a party the integrity of Israel to survive and exist as a nation. It doesn’t mean we support everything Israel does. But I’ve always said, look, in Israel’s case, if you are surrounded by a group of countries who actually want to obliterate you from the face of the earth, it’s not surprising that with these times, you find it hard to defend yourself. And I find the rising anti-Semitism in Britain and across Europe pretty disturbing.
Adams: A few years ago, I wrote about the riots in Camberwell and Tottenham and how the mob just seemed to have no opposition from the government. Rush Limbaugh actually read it on the air. I wrote at the time, “a government that as recently as 1970 made arson in a Royal dockyard a hanging offense dithers over whether to deploy water cannons against this mob.” Why was the Conservative and government response to these mobs so weak?
Farage: Scared of having the finger and the accusation of racism pointed towards them. It is as simple as that.
Adams: More afraid of that than a lawless mob?
Farage: For that brief period of time, yes. They were. You know, society is a funny thing. It holds together. But you know, that actually, it’s never terribly far away from breaking down. It is one of the fascinations of the human condition. The remarkable thing about those riots is that they were riots of opportunism. They were riots about smashing in shop windows and getting a free television. They weren’t riots really about social grievances. The police decided in many parts of north London and west London to stand back and let it happen. It was abject leadership on behalf not just of the government, but also the police forces.
Adams: What would a UKIP Home Office do differently about the riots, or about the radicalism on display for example in the murder of Lee Rigby? What is the government failing to do that UKIP would do?
Farage: The government has been part of the problem for forty years. It has state-sponsored multi-culturalism, where we have encouraged division within our society to an extent where pockets of people have been easier targets and prey for those who wish to radicalize them. It’s happening in our schools. It’s happening in our prisons, particularly. A real issue in our prisons is the growth of jihadism.
Adams: It’s the same thing here.
Farage: I know it is. I know it is. As I said to you, echoes. Very interesting. What’s the government going to do? I’ll tell you what it’s going to do. Michael Gove, the education secretary, took on in Birmingham the people who were going in as Trojan Horses to try and radicalize. He really took them on, and I thought, my goodness me, this is the bravest thing I’ve seen from a British minister for many many years. You know what Mr. Cameron did? He sacked him.
Adams: What does UKIP have to offer the average person who senses that something has come unhinged in the UK?
Farage: I think really, our appeal is to ordinary people. Our appeal is to working class people. Our appeal is to blue collar people. What do we have to offer? Firstly, pride and belief in nation. An identity, which is actually quite fundamental for an awful lot of people yet is considered to be an embarrassment to the metropolitan elites and their friends in the media. Proper immigration control. We can’t turn the clock back. But we can stop things from getting more difficult than they currently are. Higher wages. Because if you stop the uncontrolled flow and oversupply of labor into the marketplace, people will earn more money. And, I think, a country that will actually begin to understand once again, who it is.
Adams: What do you think is great about the UK that Conservatives no longer seem to be willing to say? What about the history, the culture, whatever?
Farage: Parliamentary democracy, rule of law, Magna Carta — these are all things for which we should be uniquely proud. Uniquely proud. And yet, we’ve subjugated all of those things to a new set of institutions across our seas. It’s unacceptable.
Adams: Has the left figured out how to manipulate the electoral process like they have here in the United States?
Farage: I cannot tell you, since 2000, in Blair’s time, the extent to which we have corrupted British voting through postal voting.
Adams: You have vote by mail?
Farage: Not all of it, but a huge amount of it is by mail. Loads of it is fraudulent. Loads of it is collected through intimidation. Quite frankly, I’ve seen one or two elections in parts of our cities that resemble a banana republic. It is shocking. Blair did it. The Conservatives didn’t question it. I am leading a campaign to abolish postal voting.
Adams: The Conservatives have promised an in/out referendum on the European Union. Labour has said, what, about holding a referendum about leaving the EU?
Farage: Mr. Cameron gave us a cast-iron guarantee of having a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty but then withdrew it. He spent the whole of 2011 and 2012 telling us “no” to a referendum. He then conceded a referendum in 2013. But it is all so insincere. Nobody really believes it.
Labour at the moment are resisting and saying they won’t have a referendum. There is eight months to go before a general election. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Labour didn’t match that referendum promise. After all, they all now promise a referendum at every single election without any intention of doing it.
Adams: If Labour promise a referendum on EU membership just before the election, will UKIP get on board with a referendum?
Farage: We are on board with a referendum! We think a referendum is the valid way of dealing with this problem.
Adams: There was a debate a few years ago about euthanasia for handicapped children. I was stunned to see that some in the Church of England took positions that seemed abhorrent and failed to speak with any moral clarity. What is the issue with that Church?
Farage: The last Archbishop of Canterbury was dreadful. He had no moral authority whatsoever. He even thought that Sharia law might have to be accepted in Britain. Thank goodness he’s gone and the new bloke has got a bit more backbone. But the Church of England, the Conservative Party, many of the things I grew up with a great deal of respect for, I have far less respect for them now.
Adams: What if Labour is ahead in the polls two weeks out of the election, would UKIP consider some sort of alliance with the Tories?
Farage: I think it is unlikely given the way Cameron views us. But post-election, I’d do a deal with the Devil if it got us a free and fair referendum and a chance to get our country back.
Adams: You are famous for being photographed with a drink in your hand in pub. What do you drink when you are in the United States?
Farage: An excellent question. The one thing Britain does better than anywhere in the world is we have our unique beer. It is flat. It tastes of soap but I like it. And you can’t get it anywhere else. It is called bitter. I’m having a great time here but one of the first things I do when I get back is pop into a pub.
Adams: The Scottish referendum this month has the “Yes” vote polling behind about six points but there is momentum for “Yes” and Scottish separation from the UK. How does UKIP and small-c conservatives feel about the Scottish independence referendum?
Farage: For my causes and my crusades, it would be easier if Scotland wasn’t part of the United Kingdom. But that doesn’t mean that is what I want. I’d rather we maintain the integrity of the UK, albeit with more devolution and the advancement of a sort of federal model. I hope Scotland doesn’t go. If she does go, I’ll be upset and disappointed but it will make my job a whole lot easier.
Adams: Another small world moment: did you often see the James Caird at Dulwich? [Farage attended Dulwich College in London and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lifeboat, the James Caird, is kept there.] I confess I am a huge Shackleton fan and have been to the dinners at Dulwich for the James Caird Society.
Farage: Have you? The way that North Cloister’s been done. You’ve got the snowboots on the wall. I was at Dulwich, and the things I was brought up with were the seven Victoria Crosses, the one George Cross — these were the things I was brought up with. These concepts and ideas of bravery and leadership. We were brought up as young men in that school to go out and be leaders. That’s how it was. That’s what we believed in. And Shackleton is an extraordinary figure.