Nigel Farage

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Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage MEP 1, Strasbourg - Diliff.jpg
Farage at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 2014
Leader of the UK Independence Party
Assumed office
5 November 2010
Deputy Paul Nuttall
Preceded by Jeffrey Titford (acting)
In office
27 September 2006 – 27 November 2009
Deputy David Campbell Bannerman
Preceded by Roger Knapman
Succeeded by The Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Chairman of the UK Independence Party
In office
1998 – 22 January 2000
Leader Michael Holmes
Preceded by Alan Sked
Succeeded by Mike Nattrass
Chairman of Europe of Freedom and Democracy
Assumed office
1 July 2009
Serving with Francesco Speroni
Preceded by Position established
Member of the European Parliament for South East England
Assumed office
10 June 1999
Preceded by Position established
Personal details
Born Nigel Paul Farage
(1964-04-03) 3 April 1964 (age 50)
Downe, Kent, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative (1977–1993)[1]
UK Independence Party (since 1993)
Spouse(s) Gráinne Hayes (m. 1988–97)
Kirsten Mehr (m.1999–present)
Children 4
Alma mater Dulwich College
Profession Commodity broker,[2] politician

Nigel Paul Farage (/ˈfærɑːʒ/;[3] born 3 April 1964) is a British politician and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) since 2010,[4] a position he also held from September 2006 to November 2009. Since 1999 he has been a Member of the European Parliament for South East England. He co-chairs the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (formerly "Europe of Freedom and Democracy") group.[5]

Farage was a founding member of UKIP, having left the Conservative Party in 1992 after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty.[6] Having unsuccessfully campaigned in European and Westminster parliamentary elections for UKIP since 1994, he won a seat as MEP for South East England in the 1999 European Parliament Election – the first year the regional list system was used – and was re-elected in 2004, 2009, and 2014.

In September 2006, Farage became the UKIP Leader and led the party through the 2009 European Parliament Election when it received the second-highest share of the popular vote, defeating Labour and the Liberal Democrats with over two million votes. He stepped down in November 2009 to concentrate on contesting Buckingham, the constituency of the Speaker, John Bercow, at the 2010 general election. Farage came third.

In November 2010, Farage successfully stood in the 2010 UKIP leadership contest,[7] following the resignation of Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Farage was ranked 41st in The Daily Telegraph's Top 100 most influential right-wingers poll in October 2009, citing his media awareness and his success with UKIP in the European Elections.[8] Farage was ranked 58th in the 2010 list compiled by Iain Dale and Brian Brivati for The Daily Telegraph. In the 2012 edition of the same list Farage was ranked 17th, and in 2013 he was ranked second behind Prime Minister David Cameron. In 2014, he was ranked first, ahead of Cameron.[3] He was also named "Briton of the Year" by The Times in 2014.[9]

In the 2014 European Election, Farage was re-elected again and led UKIP to its first victory in a nationwide UK election - the first for a party other than the Conservatives or Labour since the 1906 general election.[10][11]

Farage has been noted for his passionate and sometimes controversial speeches in the European Parliament[12][13] and has strongly criticised the euro, the EU's single currency. In August 2014, Farage was selected to contest the South Thanet seat in Kent at the 2015 general election.[14]


Farage was born on 3 April 1964 at Downe, near Sevenoaks in Kent, to Guy Justus Oscar Farage by his wife Barbara née Stevens.[15][16][17] The Farage name comes from a distant Huguenot ancestor.[18] One of his great-grandfathers was born to German parents who migrated to London in the 19th century.[19] His father was a stockbroker who worked in the City of London financial district. A profile on BBC Radio 4 said he was an alcoholic[15] and he left the family home when Nigel was five years old.[13]

Farage was educated at Dulwich College, a public school in south London.[17] On leaving school in 1982, he decided not to go to university, but to work in the City, trading commodities at the London Metal Exchange.[15] Initially, he joined the American commodity brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert,[17] transferring to Credit Lyonnais Rouse in 1986.[17] He joined Refco in 1994, and Natexis Metals in 2003.[17]

Political career

Early years

Active in the Conservative Party from his school days, Farage left the party in 1992 in protest at John Major government's signing of the Treaty on European Union at Maastricht.[20][21] He was a founding member of UKIP in 1993.

European Parliament

Farage was elected to the European Parliament in 1999 and re-elected in 2004, 2009 and 2014. In 1999 the BBC spent four months filming a documentary about his European election campaign but did not air it. Farage, then head of the UKIP's South East office, asked for a video and had friends make copies which were sold for £5 through the UKIP's magazine. Surrey Trading Standards investigated and Farage admitted the offence.[22] Farage is presently the leader of the 24-member UKIP contingent in the European Parliament, and co-leader of the multinational Eurosceptic group, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy.

Jacques Barrot

On 18 November 2004, Farage announced in the European Parliament that Jacques Barrot, the French Commissioner designate, had been barred from elected office in France for 2 years, after being convicted in 2000 of embezzling £2 million from government funds and diverting it into the coffers of his party. He said that French President Jacques Chirac had granted Barrot amnesty and initial BBC reports said that, under French Law, it was perhaps illegal to mention that conviction;[23] the prohibition in question applies only to French officials in the course of their duties.[24] The President of the Parliament, Josep Borrell, enjoined him to retract his comments under threat of "legal consequences".[25] The following day it was confirmed that Barrot had received an 8-month suspended jail sentence in the case, and that this had been quickly expunged by the amnesty decided by Chirac and his parliamentary majority. The Socialist and Liberal groups in the European Parliament then joined forces with UKIP in demanding the resignation of Barrot for failing to disclose the conviction during his confirmation hearings.

José Manuel Barroso

In early 2005, Farage requested that the European Commission disclose where the individual Commissioners had spent their holidays. The Commission did not provide the information requested, on the basis that the Commissioners had a right of privacy. The German newspaper Die Welt reported that the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso had spent a week on the yacht of the Greek shipping billionaire Spiro Latsis. It emerged soon afterwards that this had occurred a month before the Commission under Barroso's predecessor Romano Prodi approved 10.3 million euro of Greek state aid for Latsis' shipping company.[26] It also became known that Peter Mandelson, then a member of the Commission, had accepted a trip to Jamaica from an unrevealed source.

Farage persuaded around 75 MEPs from across the political divide to back a motion of no confidence in Barroso, which would be sufficient to compel Barroso to appear before the European Parliament to be questioned on the issue.[27] The motion was successfully tabled on 12 May 2005, and Barroso appeared before Parliament[28] at a debate on 26 May 2005. The motion was heavily defeated. A Conservative MEP, Roger Helmer, was expelled from his group, the European People's Party – European Democrats (EPP-ED), in the middle of the debate by that group's leader Hans-Gert Poettering as a result of his support for Farage's motion.

UKIP leadership

Farage at the UKIP Conference in 2009

On 12 September 2006, Farage was elected leader of UKIP with 45% of the vote, 20% ahead of his nearest rival.[29] He pledged to bring discipline to the party and to maximise UKIP's representation in local, parliamentary and other elections. In a PM programme interview on BBC Radio 4 that day he pledged to end the public perception of UKIP as a single-issue party and to work with allied politicians in the Better Off Out campaign, committing himself not to stand against the MPs who have signed up to that campaign[30] (ten in all at this moment).[citation needed]

In his maiden speech to the UKIP conference, on 8 October 2006, Farage told delegates that the party was "at the centre-ground of British public opinion" and the "real voice of opposition". He said: "We've got three social democratic parties in Britain – Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative are virtually indistinguishable from each other on nearly all the main issues" and "you can't put a cigarette paper between them and that is why there are nine million people who don't vote now in general elections that did back in 1992."[31]

At 10pm on 19 October 2006, Farage took part in a three-hour live interview and phone-in with James Whale on the national radio station talkSPORT. Four days later, Whale announced on his show his intention to stand as UKIP's candidate in the 2008 London Mayoral Election. Farage said that Whale "not only has guts, but an understanding of what real people think". Whale later decided not to stand and UKIP was represented by Gerard Batten.[32]

Farage stood again for the UKIP leadership in 2010 (having stood down the year before, to focus on his unsuccessful campaign in the Buckingham election) after his successor Lord Pearson had stood down,[7] and on 5 November 2010 it was announced he had won the leadership contest.[4]

Westminster elections

Farage had unsuccessfully contested British parliamentary elections for UKIP five times, both before and after his election as an MEP in 1999. Under the 2002 European Union decision to forbid MEPs from holding a dual mandate, if he were to be elected to the House of Commons, he would have to resign his seat as MEP.

When he contested the Bromley & Chislehurst constituency in a May 2006 by-election, following the death of Eurosceptic Conservative MP Eric Forth, Farage came third, winning 8% of the vote, beating the Labour Party candidate. This was the second-best by-election result recorded by UKIP out of 25 results, and the first time since the Liverpool Walton by-election in 1991 that a party in government had been pushed into fourth place in a parliamentary by-election on mainland Britain.

Joseph Daul

In January 2007, the French farmers' leader Joseph Daul was elected the new leader of the European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP-ED), the European Parliamentary grouping which then included the British Conservatives. The UK Independence Party almost immediately revealed that Daul had been under judicial investigation in France since 2004 as part of an inquiry into the alleged misuse of public funds worth €16 million (£10.6 million) by French farming unions."[33] It was not suggested that Daul had personally benefited, but was accused of "complicity and concealment of the abuse of public funds." Daul accused Farage of publicising the investigation for political reasons and threatened to sue Farage, but did not do so though the court dropped all charges against him.

Prince Charles

Prince Charles was invited to speak to the European Parliament on 14 February 2008; in his speech he called for EU leadership in the battle against climate change. During the standing ovation that followed, Farage was the only MEP to remain seated, and he went on to describe the Prince's advisers as "naïve and foolish at best."[34] Farage continued: "How can somebody like Prince Charles be allowed to come to the European Parliament at this time to announce he thinks it should have more powers? It would have been better for the country he wants to rule one day if he had stayed home and tried to persuade Gordon Brown to give the people the promised referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon." The leader of the UK Labour Party's MEPs, Gary Titley, accused Farage of anti-Royalism. Titley said: "I was embarrassed and disgusted when the Leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, remained firmly seated during the lengthy standing ovation Prince Charles received. I had not realised Mr Farage's blind adherence to right-wing politics involved disloyalty and discourtesy to the Royal Family. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself and should apologise to the British people he represents."[34]

Expenses disclosure

In May 2009, The Observer reported a Foreign Press Association speech given by Farage in which he had said that over his period as a Member of the European Parliament he had received a total of £2 million of taxpayers' money in staff, travel, and other expenses.[35] In response, Farage said that in future all UKIP MEPs would provide monthly expense details.[35]

Herman Van Rompuy

After the speech of Herman Van Rompuy on 24 February 2010 to the European Parliament, Farage – to protests from other MEPs – addressed the former Belgian Prime Minister and first long-term President of the European Council saying that he had the "charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of low grade bank clerk."[36] Farage questioned the legitimacy of Van Rompuy's appointment, asking "Who are you? I'd never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you." He also asserted that Van Rompuy's "intention [is] to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and of the European nation states."[36][37] Van Rompuy commented afterwards, "There was one contribution that I can only hold in contempt, but I'm not going to comment further."[36] After refusing to apologise for behaviour that was, in the words of the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, "inappropriate, unparliamentary and insulting to the dignity of the House", Farage was reprimanded and had his right to ten days' allowance (expenses) "docked."[38][39]

The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, said after his meeting with Farage:

I defend absolutely Mr Farage's right to disagree about the policy or institutions of the Union, but not to personally insult our guests in the European Parliament or the country from which they may come. [. . .] I myself fought for free speech as the absolute cornerstone of a democratic society. But with freedom comes responsibility – in this case, to respect the dignity of others and of our institutions. I am disappointed by Mr Farage's behaviour, which sits ill with the great parliamentary tradition of his own country. I cannot accept this sort of behaviour in the European Parliament. I invited him to apologise, but he declined to do so. I have therefore – as an expression of the seriousness of the matter – rescinded his right to ten days' daily allowance as a Member.[39]

Questioned by Camilla Long of The Times, Farage declared of his speech: "it wasn't abusive, it was right."[40]

2010 UK General Election

On 4 September 2009, Farage resigned as the UKIP's leader to focus on his campaign to become Member of Parliament for Buckingham at Westminster in the 2010 general election.[41] He later told The Times journalist Camilla Long that UKIP internal fights took up far too much time.[40]

Farage stood against sitting Buckingham MP, John Bercow, the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, despite the convention that the Speaker, as a political neutral, is not normally challenged in his or her bid for re-election by any of the major parties.[42]

Farage came third with 8,401 votes. Bercow was re-elected and in second place with 10,331 votes was John Stevens, a former Conservative MEP who campaigned as an independent accompanied by "Flipper the Dolphin" (a reference to MPs flipping second homes).[43]

Injury in air crash

On 6 May 2010, the morning of the election, Farage was travelling in a Polish-built two-seater PZL-104 Wilga aircraft with a pro-UKIP banner attached, when the plane crashed.[44] Farage suffered injuries that were described as non-life-threatening.[45] Although his injuries were originally described as minor,[44] his sternum and ribs were broken and his lung punctured.[46] The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said that the aeroplane was towing a banner, which caught in the tailplane, forcing the nose down.[47]

On 1 December 2010 the pilot of the aircraft involved in the accident was charged with threatening to kill Farage in a separate incident. He was also charged with threatening to kill an AAIB official involved in the investigation into the accident.[48] In April 2011, the pilot was found guilty of making death threats. The judge said that the defendant was "clearly extremely disturbed" at the time the offences happened, adding "He is a man who does need help. If I can find a way of giving him help I will."[49]

May 2012 London mayoral and local elections

The UKIP forgot to put their party name on their candidate's ballot paper for the London mayoral election, 2012,[50] Laurence Webb appearing as "A fresh choice for London." Farage described the mistake as an internal error.[50] Interviewed the following Sunday by Andrew Neil and asked about "the game plan", Farage welcomed the "average 13% vote" across the country, and stated that the party was preparing for County council elections in 2013, European elections in 2014 and a general election in 2015.[51]

Nigel Farage talking to members of the media.

Asked what would happen to UKIP if the Tories made a manifesto commitment to a "European Referendum", Farage said they had already failed to honour a "cast iron" commitment for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.[51] Challenging Farage's viewpoint, Neil said that UKIP aspired to come top of the European elections, but while UKIP wanted to join the big time they were still seen as "unprofessional, amateur and even unacceptable."[51] In an interview, Farage said a party spokesman had used incorrect language about Baroness Warsi, and described her as "the lowest grade Chairman the Tory Party has ever had."[51] He was voted politician of the year by the online service MSN.[52]

Campaign against Irish fiscal treaty

In May 2012 Farage was interviewed by Karen Coleman of the Irish Independent about the campaign in Ireland against the Irish fiscal treaty. Ireland had no anti-EU MEPs and according to Pat Gallagher MEP, Ukip's involvement was counterproductive as "Irish voters strongly dislike foreigners like Mr Farage telling them how to vote." Coleman who believed the campaign had "little to do with what's best for Ireland" described the campaign as "particularly egregious" and said the interview became 'nasty' when she asked Farage about the campaign funding.[53]

May 2013 local elections

In May 2013 Farage led UKIP to its best-ever performance in a UK election. The party took 23% of the vote in the local elections, putting it only 2 points behind the governing Conservative party and 9 points ahead of the Liberal Democrats, and winning it 147 council seats. Farage was mobbed by well-wishers as he made his way to his favourite pub, the Marquis of Granby, for a celebratory drink.[54] He called the victory "a real sea change in British politics".[54] Subsequently, polling agency Survation found that 22% of voters intended to support UKIP in the 2015 General Election.[55]

Visit to Scotland

In May 2013, Farage was interrupted by protesters during a press conference in the Canon's Gait pub on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The demonstration was organised by a number of groups including the Radical Independence Campaign and saw protesters vocally accuse Farage of being "racist", "fascist", and a "homophobe", and tell him to "go back to London". Farage made attempts to leave by taxi but was prevented from doing so, and was eventually taken away in an armoured police van while protesters continued to shout.[56][57][58] He was trying to raise the profile of UKIP in Scotland ahead of the Aberdeen Donside by-election; the party at that point had no representation in the country, and took 0.91% of the vote in the previous election[59] though it won its first Scottish MEP the following year. During an interview with BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio show, Farage labelled the protesters "yobbo fascist scum" before hanging up, stating that the questions regarding the incident in Edinburgh were insulting and unpleasant.[60]

2014 European election

In a second visit to Edinburgh in May 2014 Farage predicted that UKIP would win a Scottish seat in the elections. Two hundred protesters heckled and booed him.[61] Thirty police in two vans were needed to preserve order.[62]

In the European Parliament elections in 2014, Farage led UKIP to win the highest share of the vote. It was the first time a political party other than the Labour Party and Conservative Party has won the popular vote in a national election since the 1906 general election.[10][11] It is also the first time a party other than the Labour and Conservatives won the largest number of seats in a national election since the December 1910 general election.[63][64][65]

Undeclared gifts

In June 2014, Farage declared £205,603 for free use of a barn for his constituency, which had been declared in the EU register in Brussels each year. The Electoral Commission said that the gifts should have been also declared in the UK within 30 days of receipt, and started an investigation into Farage.[66]

2015 UK General Election

In October 2013, Farage announced that he would stand for election as an MP in 2015. Speaking on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, he said that he would consider standing in Folkestone and Hythe or South Thanet, but had no specific preference for which seat he wished to contest, and preferred to focus on his current role as an MEP.[67][68] In August 2014 he was selected as the UKIP candidate for South Thanet for 2015 following a local husting.[69] On 12 September 2014, he appeared at a pro-union rally with Scottish UKIP MEP David Coburn ahead of the country's independence referendum.[70]

In October 2014, Farage was invited to take part in leaders' debates on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky ahead of the general election.[71] He had previously threatened to take legal action if he were excluded from any televised party leaders' debates at the next general election.[72]


The euro

From taking office as a UKIP MEP in 1999, Farage has often voiced opposition to the "euro project". His argument is that "a one-size-fits-all interest rate" cannot work for countries with structurally different economies, often using the example of Greece and Germany to emphasise contrast.[73]


Farage strongly opposes the use of bailouts and says that "buying your own debt with tax payers money" will not solve the problem and that, "if we do, the next debt crisis won't be a country", "it will be the European Central Bank itself".[74][75]

Alternative Vote referendum

Farage declared himself personally in favour of the Alternative Vote system of May 2011, saying first-past-the-post would be a "nightmare" for UKIP. The party's stance has to be decided by its central policy-making committee.[76]

Energy and the environment

Farage has criticised the shutting down of coal-fired power stations and has opposed the policy of creating wind farms as covering "Britain in ugly disgusting ghastly windmills".[77] In a speech made to the European parliament on 11 September 2013, Farage cited news, reported in several Rupert Murdoch-owned papers and the Daily Mail, that the Arctic Sea ice cap had apparently grown from 2012 to 2013, claiming that this was evidence of decades "of Euro-federalism combined with an increasing Green obsession".[78]


Farage takes an anti-prohibitionist position on recreational drugs. In an April 2014 phone-in interview hosted by The Daily Telegraph he argued that the War on Drugs had been lost "many, many years ago", stating that "I hate drugs, I've never taken them myself, I hope I never do, but I just have a feeling that the criminalisation of all these drugs is actually not really helping British society." He argued in favour of a Royal Commission on drugs exploring all avenues as how to most effectively legislate on drugs and deal with their related criminal and public health problems, including the possibility of their legalisation.[79]

Vladimir Putin

When asked which leaders he admired, Farage said "As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin. ... Not that I approve of him politically".[80]

Margaret Thatcher

Nigel Farage has stated that he is the only politician "keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive",[81] so much so that Labour leader Ed Miliband has described Farage as "more Thatcherite than Thatcher".[82]


In 2013, Farage said this about Islam:

I just have this huge admiration for what the Aussies have done… If you listen to John Howard and what other PMs have said in the past 10 years, of Islam … he said: 'You're welcome to come here and to have your children here… but if you're coming here to take us over, you're not welcome.[83]


In a 2014 interview on LBC Radio Farage said that he would feel "concerned" if a group of Romanian men moved next door to him. When the reporter inquired what would be the difference between Romanian men moving next door and a group of German children, in reference to Nigel Farage's German wife and children, Farage replied: "You know the difference."[84][85][86] He later expanded on this on the UKIP website, explaining that "if we were able to operate a proper work permit scheme for Romanian nationals, with suitable checks, as recommended by UKIP, then nobody would need to be concerned if a group of Romanian nationals moved in next door to them."[87]

Electoral performance

Nigel Farage has contested several elections under the UK Independence Party banner:

UK Parliament elections

Date of election Constituency Party Votes  % of votes Result
1994 by-election Eastleigh UKIP 952 1.7 Not elected
1997 general election Salisbury UKIP 3,332 5.7 Not elected
2001 general election Bexhill and Battle UKIP 3,474 7.8 Not elected
2005 general election South Thanet UKIP 2,079 5.0 Not elected
2006 by-election Bromley and Chislehurst UKIP 2,347 8.1 Not elected
2010 general election Buckingham UKIP 8,410 17.4 Not elected
2015 general election South Thanet UKIP

European Parliament elections

Date of election Constituency Party Votes Percentage of votes Result
1994 European election Itchen, Test and Avon UKIP 12,423 5.4 Not elected
1999 European election South East England UKIP 144,514 9.7 Elected
2004 European election South East England UKIP 431,111 19.5 Elected
2009 European election South East England UKIP 440,002 18.8 Elected
2014 European election South East England UKIP 751,439 32.1 Elected

Personal life

Farage lives in Single Street,[88] between Berry's Green and Downe, "around the corner from his mother."[16] He has been married twice. In 1988 he married Gráinne Hayes, by whom he has two children: Samuel (born 1989) and Thomas (born 1991). The couple divorced in 1997.[17] In 1999 he married Kirsten Mehr, a German national, and they have two children, Victoria (born 2000) and Isabelle (born 2005).[89] Farage employs his wife as his parliamentary secretary.[90] Farage has made reference to his German-born wife in response to criticisms that he is somehow "anti-Europe", while he himself says he is merely anti-EU.[15] In April 2014, Farage said that he employed his wife as his secretary at public expense. Farage said that "nobody else could do that job."[90][91]

In 2010, Farage published a memoir, entitled Fighting Bull (Flying Free in paperback), outlining the founding of UKIP and his personal and political life so far.[92] Farage is also a keen cricket fan and has appeared on Test Match Special.[93] He appeared in an advertisement for the bookmaker Paddy Power ahead of golf's 2014 Ryder Cup.[94]

Farage is a Christian and describes himself as a "somewhat lapsed" member of the Church of England.[95]


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Further reading

  • Fighting Bull. Biteback (autobiography 2010 hardback first edition); Flying Free. Biteback (autobiography 2011 paperback second edition)

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Alan Sked
Chairman of the UK Independence Party
Succeeded by
Mike Nattrass
Preceded by
Roger Knapman
Leader of the UK Independence Party
Succeeded by
The Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Preceded by
Jeffrey Titford
Leader of the UK Independence Party