Nigel Farage is becoming awfully tiresome. Having won the referendum and realised his dream of a Britain outside of the European Union, he has spent the months following June 2016 in a state of perpetual anger. Despite resigning last July (for real this time) as leader of UKIP, he has stubbornly refused to leave the public eye. He was back at it this week with a bizarre attack on the most counter-strategic of targets: UKIP’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell.
Like David Beckham, Nigel Farage, the proud anti-establishment figure, appears to be exceptionally angry that he has not yet been granted a knighthood. For reasons unknown, he has concluded that Douglas Carswell made sure this honour would not happen. As a result, he wrote a scathing column in the Daily Telegraph in which he said that ‘there is little future for UKIP with [Douglas Carswell] staying inside this party.’ Arron Banks, the top UKIP donor, has decided that – at the next General Election – he will stand against Carswell in a contest for his Clacton seat.
The idiom ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ comes to mind. Farage is in a desperate need to recognise that, were it not for Carswell’s change of Party in 2014, UKIP would have decayed under the weight of his ego. A poisonous influence, there is a very good reason that Patrick O’Flynn branded Farage ‘snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive.’
It was up to Douglas Carswell to become a human face of UKIP. Representing the Party’s mainstream capabilities by becoming the first electorally viable candidate, he became a beacon for disaffected Eurosceptic Tories. By diffusing the poisonous atmosphere surrounding UKIP, which seemed to be enveloped in controversy every other week, Brexit became less of a fringe concern and more of a valid mainstream belief.
When it was time for the referendum campaign to begin, it was Douglas Carswell who had stuck his head above the parapet for conservatives (and Conservatives) of the U.K. Men like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, and women like Andrea Leadsom and Theresa Villiers, found it easier to ‘come out’ as Eurosceptic. That is not to say, of course, that these people did not already harbour pro-Brexit views: rather, Carswell’s defection cut out the need for a desire for Brexit to be portrayed as a potential mainstream belief. Supporters could get stuck right in.
It would be difficult to argue that Farage did not secure us a referendum in the first place. But there is a very great difference between having a referendum and winning a referendum – as Cameron and Osborne found out last year. Carswell helped to unify about 4 million UKIP voters, and his alignment with the (more viable) campaign group Vote Leave pushed the debate in the right direction. It is abundantly clear that Carswell is not out there to boost his own ego.
UKIP members who lampoon Carswell are reminiscent of the short-tailed cricket, who are rather fond of eating their own wings. Instead of being incessantly critical, it is time that they look fondly on a man who championed their dream, and helped to make Brexit a reality.
Even if they don’t, the history books will.