The name Nigel Farrage has popped up in the news with disconcerting frequency in the last few weeks. Not for the promotion of flat caps and bad-taste gilets but for his juxtaposing plans to appear in the new series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and become Conservative party leader by 2026. But does one really lead to the other?
Talking to PoliticsHome, Farage said “I’d be very surprised if I were not Conservative leader by ‘26. Very surprised.” This comment has divided Conservative politicians: Tory chairman, Greg Hands was highly dismissive of Farage’s intention, saying “First of all, there is no vacancy and, secondly, I would be extremely surprised if Nigel Farage were ever to be Conservative leader…There are no plans to allow him into the party and he has not applied.” On the other hand, the former chancellor, George Osborne suggested that Farage could rejoin the party and continue to be elected as leader by the membership.
Talking on the podcast The Rest is Politics, both Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell think it likely that Farage could become a future Conservative leader; he has been a member of the Conservative Party before and, if the Tories were to lose the 2024 general election, they believe the party will become more right-wing, thereby making Farage a prime candidate to lead it.
Despite having said “they think I’m joking..I’m serious” when making his career prediction, Farage later told PoliticsHome that he spoke “in jest”. Consequently, there is lots of confusion around Farage’s plans but, considering his desire for the political limelight and his decision to appear in the current series of I’m a Celebrity, I suspect there was nothing light-hearted in his prediction.
Celebrities who appear on reality TV do so either to further their careers or to make easy money. In Farage’s case, it seems to be both. He will receive £1.5 million for his appearance, more than double the record for the highest paid celebrity on the show. By comparison, Matt Hancock - the last politician to enter the jungle before Farage - received £320,000. In an interview, Farage said that his intentions for doing the show were to “connect” with a younger audience and “to show people I am not nasty”. Ironically, those who wish to prove their non-nastiness by eating anus and sleeping in a bag are usually the nastiest. The worrying thing about these motives is not Farage’s delusion but what his people-pleasing pursuit of increased popularity amongst the young tells us about his political intentions. Could I’m a Celebrity really be his ticket back to mainstream politics?
It is reassuring that James Ball in The New European stressed that “politicians on the brink of conventional success do not volunteer themselves for reality television”. We have to look no further than Matt Hancock’s post-reality-TV career to prove this: “his third-place finish did not do much for sales of his book or his job prospects…he has still not had the Tory whip returned, and he is standing down as an MP in the next election.” Farage hopes that an appearance on a show that will document his every move and passing thought will endear him to the younger generation, but he fails to realise that it may actually make them hate him even more. As Ball says, “he’s notoriously quite peevish and thin-skinned behind closed doors.” Perhaps it’s best for his career, then, to keep those doors closed.
As well as his own ill-temper, he fails to realise that he must be a serving MP to become the leader of a political party. He is not currently, nor has ever been, an MP - eight times he has stood for the role and eight times he has failed, so the likelihood of him making that a nine from nine failure rate is high. It would therefore seem that Farage’s personal political prediction, whilst not said in jest, should be taken as such. He is self-deluded and unlikely to be entertained by either the public or current members of the Conservative Party. Let’s just hope he can entertain us on I’m a Celebrity.
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