Trump hitching ride on the Farage chariot
- Nigel Farage re-emerges into the spotlight as Trump looks for reflected Brexit glory
- Farage and Trump share anti-establishment, celebrity-loving ground — little else
- Trump's use of Farage shows he is still up for the fight
- Clinton must be concerned that she is unable to firm up her lead
Nigel Farage re-emerges on the biggest stage of all. Photo: iStock
By Martin O'Rourke
Brexit architect and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage re-emerged into the public limelight last night and, in true showman style, it was perhaps on the biggest stage of all.
At the behest of Republican nominee Donald Trump, Farage addressed a somewhat bemused rally of 15,000 Trump supporters in Jacksonville, Mississippi where he launched broadside after broadside against Democratic candidate for the presidency Hilary Clinton.
"I could not possibly tell you how to vote in this election. But, you know, I get it. If I was an American citizen, I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me", he said, building towards the punchline. "In fact, I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me."
Whether Clinton cares or not is perhaps neither here nor there but, ostensibly at least, Trump and Farage share common ground. Both men's anti-establishment positions are well-documented and Trump's somewhat incoherent comments on the runup to the June 23 referendum in the UK were supportive of if a little vague on a UK exit from the European Union.
Compare and contrast Trump's pre-Brexit "I think they should leave" observation with his overnight tub-thumping message: "The people of Britain voted to declare their independence — which is what we're also looking to do, folks — from their international government.".
The pungent whiff of bandwagon jumping can be smelt across the pond. And probably beyond.
From the Republican nominee's perspective, any gloss he can get after a very troubled few weeks in the campaign for the presidency has to be good news. After all, no-one likes a winner quite like the Americans and, in particular, quite like those who make up Trump's natural constituency.
Farage's clear anti-establishment approach honed over the best part of two decades and ability to upset the status quo again and again certainly fits and, while he has often piqued many with his comments, he has avoided some of the hideous errors of judgement that have marred Trump's campaign.
Trump's litany of blunders reads like a roll-call and have been catalogued enough times before for us to delve in to here again, but it is evident that his blunt, somewhat uncultivated approach to political debate has probably put off as many as it has attracted. What goes in the business bull pit, does not necessarily work in more rarified environs.
Trump may suffer from a superiority complex but he can certainly learn some things from Farage. And this despite the common ground between both men ending there. Farage is after all a classic product of the British public school system turned banker who then rebelled against the status quo when he saw a political vacuum emerging in the UK political scene.
Trump forged a career in real estate where he was able to turn a successful family-owned business into something much more grandiose in the 1970s that also enabled him to emerge as a larger-than-life type figure from the business world as he became the public face of projects such as the Grand Hyatt construction in Manhattan in 1978 and the 58-storey Trump tower skyscraper in 1983.
Farage meanwhile loves a pint and Trump is famously teetotal, viewing it as an addiction. Successful intervention or not by Farage last night, there would have been no cork popping or cigar smoking in celebration.
Both men love publicity — both men are anti-establishment, both men are charismatic and both men have huge egos. And that's probably about it.
The egos would also render it virtually impossible for the two to have a long-term working relationship. Think Boris Johnson and Farage here for comparison.
Trump appeals for some campaign help. Photo: iStock
So what's in it for Farage? It could be nothing more than the oxygen of publicity much-beloved of a man who knows how to perform and has done so with aplomb down the years. He may also be missing the adulation he enjoyed after the extraordinary success that culminated in the Brexit vote on June 23 and then his probably very wise decision to get out of frontline politics at the absolute pinnacle.
There has been speculation that Farage is exploring the possibility of becoming a TV celebrity in the US emulating the success of the likes of Piers Morgan and James Corden and if that were the case, then there is every chance that some of the big TV corporations will have noted his performance and might be considering a punt.
Conflicting reports that Farage may or may not take part in the 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' franchise, have already done the rounds, but for a man who was too easily ruffled by Bob Geldof's gunboat diplomacy on June 15, it's hard to imagine him going through the indignities of the jungle-based reality series that puts its contestants through gruesome tasks designed to break them down physically and mentally over the length of the programme.
He is also currently enjoying a stint as a radio presenter in the UK on LBC and his love of publicity would surely open him up to the possibilities and the potential earnings on offer in the US. And a show on his terms must appeal. After all, he ruled UKIP with an iron rod during his tenure shaping it to his will and the direction he wished to pursue (and vindicated, it has to be argued, in light of the June 23 success).
From Clinton's vantage point, Farage's barbs will probably be like water off a duck's back to her given that the ex-UKIP leader was preaching to Trump converts.
But while she might try to paint this as a desperate measure on behalf of Trump with some justification, it must be galling to her and he cohorts that she remains just five percentage points ahead of Trump despite his many calamities.
Some commentators are already beginning to crown her queen for the November 8 election but the distrust with which she is viewed and which was so eloquently outlined in colleague Michael McKenna's piece last week means that she is never one step away from a full-blown crisis herself.
She might also be perturbed by the fact that Trump's turn to Farage is every bit indicative of a man who, contrary to some analysis in the last week or two, refuses to give up on his presidential dream and still has the stomach for the fight.
With 75 days to go until the election, there is a lot of time for things to swing and the uncertainty is undoubtedly weighing across the board with the Federal Reserve deliberations on when next to raise interest rates perhaps the most obvious example of this.
She'll not be counting her chickens. And she'd be right not to be.
Whatever the commentators are saying, Clinton should
be looking over her shoulder: Photo: iStock
Martin O'Rourke is managing editor at Saxo Bank