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Authors: Nigel Farage

Flying Free

BOOK: Flying Free
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FLYING FREE

NIGEL FARAGE

I have been on the road for over a decade and owe an incalculable debt to my family, who have made huge sacrifices yet somehow kept a warm, welcoming place in the nest against my occasional visits on leave. The small parts which they play in this book reflect my neglect, not the parts which they have played in my life. I must also thank the extended family of dedicated UKIP supporters whose time, creative skills and passion have sustained me through thick and thin. Of all my colleagues and friends, three who have fought unwaveringly at my side warrant particular mention. David Lott – he of the one-man-and-his-horsebox crusade-John Whittaker and Graham Booth have remained loyal over many years and have kept me laughing under fire. Without Annabelle Fuller’s perceptiveness and goodwill and Mark Daniel’s unfailing flair and imagination, this story would have been considerably duller.

I am gazing down on one of the most beautiful sights on God’s earth – chequered green turf beneath a pale blue sky. There are shiny smiling faces down there, and bright cottons. There are children playing catch.

And I am more nervous than I have ever been in my life.

I have in my time stood up in front of the European Parliament and lambasted Presidents and Prime Ministers. I have faced hostile crowds and hecklers in front of audiences of millions. I have bet fortunes at odds against…

Nothing has ever got me as keyed up or as overawed as this.

I suppose the childhood ambitions are ultimately the only ones that matter. They are simple, beautiful and generally deliciously improbable. The adolescent ones are fulfilled, moderated or banished by practicality, the adult ones short-term and dreary. The childhood ones linger. And this is one which has been with me since I was in short trousers.

I adjust the headphones. I lean forward. Despite the presence of gods all around me, I dare to talk. My interviewer wants to talk about politics. I have far more important things to discuss.

For more than half an hour, he just lets me witter. He even pays me the compliment of insulting my blazer! Soon I have a broad smile on my face. I forget the millions listening around the world. This is the purest pleasure.

This is
Test Match Special
from the Rose Bowl. The gods are Philip
Tufnell, Vic Marks, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, my polite interviewer Jonathan Agnew and, greatest of all, dour England opener Geoffrey Boycott, the man who stood firm and often alone for his country against hurricanes Lillee and Thomson, Holding and Croft.

And we are talking about cricket.

At the end, I hand the cans over to Boycs.

‘’Ey, ’e knows ’is stuff does that Nigel Farage,’ says the legendary Yorkshireman. ‘Tell you what. Why don’t we swap jobs? You do the cricket and I’ll take your job and tackle the Europeans…’

Tread softly, Geoff, for you tread on my dreams.

I don’t suppose that I will ever win knighthood, peerage, Nobel Prize or the British Open claret jug.

But I have just received Geoff Boycott’s approval.

I can die happy.

Who – or what – dunnit?

That seems to be the question on most people's minds when they ask about my life off the political stage.

Obviously detective-novel enthusiasts or
Where's Wally?
hounds, they are convinced that somewhere, hidden amongst all those commonplace milling memories and confusing clues, there lurks ‘the answer'.

I suppose the question is: ‘What turns an alarmingly normal,
cricket-loving
middle-class English boy into a full-time troublemaker, leader of a rabble in revolt against a mighty empire, thorn in the flesh of Presidents and Prime Ministers and spokesman for an entire generation of libertarians and democrats?'

Or, as a man with glazed, cobwebbed eyes rumbled at me in a Westminster bar the other night, ‘Oi, Nigel. 'Ow'd you get to be so, like, totally doolally?'

Well, welcome to
Why's Wally?
.

Enjoy the hunt.

For myself, I don't believe the quarry exists.

I was an alarmingly normal, cricket-loving Kentish boy – albeit a bolshy, argumentative and perverse one. I remain an alarmingly normal,
cricket-loving
Kentish boy, as bolshy and argumentative as ever.

There were two horrific moments for which I will forever remain grateful, moments which did not so much change me as cause me to review
my priorities and so irrevocably to alter my course, but those occurred when I was in my early twenties and confronted by imminent death.

I do not believe even these made me significantly doolallier than before.

They merely woke me up to the fact that I wanted something more on my gravestone than ‘fed, drank, made money', that we English boys and girls were under threat and that, if further generations were to enjoy all that I had, someone just had to stand up and fight.

And, being doolally, I reckoned it might as well be me.

*

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(Which was rather late for me)…

It may have been bad timing for Larkin, but it was perfect for me. Because, in direct consequence of this admirable innovation, I emerged – as ever at the forefront of fashion and technological advance – into the light of Farnborough Hospital on Friday 3 April 1964.

The following day, the Beatles made history by occupying the top five places in the US Billboard charts. I claim no responsibility for this almost equally impressive demonstration at once of British supremacy and of the fact that the sixties were now truly underway.

I also therefore know far more precisely than most people where I was on 22 November 1963, the day that Kennedy died. My mother had no doubt shed tears with the rest of the world for the promise and the naive but inspiring dreams which perished with its fallen king.

I opened my eyes, then, on a world at once looking to the future and counting on the young, breaking free of the cautious conventionality instilled by two World Wars but now aware that there was no magical silver bullet which could not be counteracted by one of copper-jacketed lead.

Materialism – some would say realism – had already lurched hawking and cursing into the reveries of the sixties.

My parents – or, more exactly, my mother, because my father was busy
earning a lot and spending a lot more in the City – took me home to Downe, a still-enchanting village in the North Downs of Kent.

Downe is one of those place-names apparently designed by the devious British to confuse foreigners. The village is set in a wooded valley in a ridge of chalk downland (by which we mean uplands of course) which terminates abruptly in the White Cliffs of Dover.

Just to add to the confusion, its most famous resident, Charles Darwin, lived at Down House, Downe, which he called Down House, Down because he refused to accept the slightly chi-chi ‘e' appended to the village's name. My family home backed onto the grounds of Darwin's. It was a pair of Victorian semi-detached workers' cottages which, by the time I arrived, had already grown into what estate agents would call ‘a desirable residence with two acres of garden' and would in time acquire a ‘substantial' in the description as the two became one and extensions were tacked on until now it is a seven-bedroom ‘villa', whatever that may mean.

I therefore spent the first summer of my life beneath rowan trees in my Silver Cross pram, reflecting, no doubt, on the virtues of natural selection (of which I was living proof ), in what was, in effect, Darwin's garden, and was pushed along the Sandwalk where he had done his best thinking.

Now I think that this, unlikely as it sounds, really did have an influence on me. Darwin's status has since risen to that of a prophet, but, back then, he was, for the bulk of the general public, merely an illustrious but contentious figure. In Downe, he was ours.

There were villagers whose grandparents had worked for him and his family, whose grandparents had played cricket with him or had been members of the ‘Darwin Coal Club' and remembered him with affection. We were aware of him and loyal to his memory, much as many Christians grew up with unthinking loyalty to creationism.

Certainly a central tenet of my convictions since then has been that whatever has evolved is superior to, and fitter to survive in its peculiar environment than, that which is designed by one hubristic age (let alone an alien culture) on a drawing-board.

As ‘Radical Jack' Durham said at the time of the Great Reform Act, demonstrating a similar ecological concern for indigenous forms:

I wish to rally as large a portion of the British people as possible around the existing institutions of the country… I do not wish new institutions but to preserve and strengthen the old. Some would confine the advantages of these institutions to as small a class as possible. I would throw them open to all who have the ability to comprehend them and vigour to protect them.

Our weights and measures system, over which our supporters fought so long, gallant and victorious a battle against dirigiste idiocy, are a minor but significant case in point. It may indeed be simpler for the cerebrally challenged to work in decimal because they can count on their fingers and, where necessary, toes.

Our ancestors, however, did not sit down cackling, intent on devising a system of measures in multiples of twelve which would thoroughly confuse children and idiots. The system evolved from use and is, in consequence, more user-friendly, adaptable and natural than its alternative, which was designed (along with a ten-day week made up of ten-hour days and 86.4 second minutes. Ah, sweet simplicity!) by Napoleon's bureaucrats.

Or take the most successful medical innovation of the twentieth century – which is…

…Well, penicillin has a claim, but no human brain invented and developed that. It was merely discovered. The other great life-saver was developed by a pair of very sick lay-people who got together one day and compared notes, then allowed the experiences of other sufferers to complete the job. It has saved the lives of millions. It is called Alcoholics Anonymous.

I had cause to be grateful to AA very early in life.

As I sat there in that Vanden Plas coachwork sarcophagus, ruminating on mysteries somehow too deep for speech and accustoming myself to life, my father was making a determined attempt to kill himself just 20 miles away in the City of London. He solemnly swears that the two things were unrelated.

He was twenty-nine years old and doing precisely what I was to do – having what he felt sure was a ‘good' time amongst the boys in the City.

He was seldom at home, so he contrived that trick which so many fathers worked back then. He appeared from time to time, expensively dressed and telling glamorous stories, whilst my mother, who had to deal with workaday problems like nappies and mounting bills and suffered the
additional disadvantage of being there all the time, paid the proverbial price of familiarity.

Guy Farage – the name alone surely indicates his mother's Georgette Heyer-style aspirations on his behalf. No. Hang onto your hats: Guy Justus Oscar Farage…

A man with such a moniker would have been welcomed at the
gaming-table
by Percy Blakeney, Brigadier Gerard or Sidney Carton.

He would of course be a dandy – and yes, with his handmade shoes and Savile Row suits (worn, of course, as per stereotype, with the obligatory bowler hat and brolly), my dad is remembered as the best-dressed man on the stock exchange at that time. He would be a gambler – and yes, he took exceptional risks, some of which actually came off. He would be a toper.

But of course, Miss Heyer's bucks had extensive lands and holdings. Guy Farage had neither. They disported in a regulated and structured society, he in a curious era where social strata were melting and melding and the universal aspirations of his childhood – military, class-ridden, Edwardian – were being displaced by rude, laid-back, liberal, hippy values. Many of the prettiest girls and fanciest motors seemed suddenly to belong to the
smelly-socks
brigade, which was outrageous.

Ten when the war ended, twenty-five when the sixties dawned, he saw his heroes age by half a century overnight.

And in truth, his temperament was not that of the successful aristocratic buck who, having sowed wild oats, could settle to the care of his estates. He was sensitive and compulsive. Trained to aspire, he aspired with all his heart and soul, not as a passing diversion. He collected miniatures and antique silver, butterflies and moths – an acceptable foible in a Heyer hero – but he became expert in them and collects them and loves them to this day. His games were not kept compartmentalised – discreet diversions, unrelated to real emotions – but absorbed him.

And, whilst many of his fellow City stockbrokers drank prodigiously but retained control, he plunged into that world and found that he no longer knew which way was up.

Of course, I knew nothing of all this. Even had I been older and more capable of understanding, this was an era in which such things were not
discussed, at least not in my family. Damn it, we weren't even allowed to discuss World War I because it had been nasty and embarrassing and several members of both sides of the family had fought in the trenches.

I knew only that my father was generally absent somewhere mysterious and represented better food, fancier presents, exciting tales and convivial company whilst my mother was the kind, dutiful person who performed the altogether duller tasks of dressing and feeding me on a day-to-day basis.

This put-upon soul was an exceptionally glamorous twenty-five years old.

I know now about the crippling loneliness which is perhaps the worst aspect of life with an alcoholic as, night after night, he sank into the arms of his great, obsessive love. He did not lose his charm or his wit when sober – all that comes much later in the alcoholic's decline – so there was always hope that tonight he would be the loving, responsive person whom he showed to the world by day. And every night, as he telephoned with another incredible tale about working late or as he passed out making a noise like riffled cards intermingled with whale-song in his armchair, that hope was dashed again.

I know now about the worries which must have grumbled like thunder throughout her slumbers and sometimes awoken her as searing lightning – the debts piling up, the continuous worry about his personal safety and the children's future should he not return.

I know now about the need – in those days also the bounden duty – to cover up for him. ‘Exhausted…', ‘…slight cold…', ‘…terrible drugs from the doctor…', ‘…Well, why shouldn't he let his hair down after all that strain…?' ‘…Yes, but he's always been a cavalier type. It's one of the things I love about him…'

*

I was barely toddling when my brother Andrew was brought home and took his place in my Silver Cross.

He was totally unworthy of that hallowed position. His thoughts, so far as I could tell, were not interesting at all. He seemed to think exclusively of his physical requirements, which was very tedious. It made one doubt natural selection.

Thanks to that natural self-interest, no doubt, he now earns in a month what I earn in a year and is a generous and amusing companion.

As my father's problems worsened, it fell to my mother to tell us that we could not have this or that treat and to nag us about thrift. This only served to make my father's appearances more wonderful.

Most middle-class families in those days had some sort of staff – a nanny, an au pair or at the least a daily cleaner. We could not afford them, so, as mum tended Andrew, I found myself more and more at liberty.

I wandered, at first around Down House and what is now Downe Bank Nature Reserve, then further afield. I wandered, I chattered away equally to people and animals I met in my wanderings – and I rummaged.

I suppose it came from my collector father, this rummaging thing. By the age of eight, I would not leave the house without a fork and a trowel with which to hunt for treasure. I have many of the treasures thus uncovered to this day: clay pipes, coloured glass bottles, possets, lead soldiers, coins and fragments of pottery and masonry. I still spend many a holiday on battlefields, recreating in my mind the tawdriness, the terrors and the occasional squibs of everyday human magnificence and picking up relics. Even in childhood, I never hankered after hoards of gold. I just wanted to feel the connection between me and the land and the people who had come before me.

Weird child.

Only two things drew me back home: food and cricket.

At the end of 1968, I remember thinking, ‘This has been the most important year EVER, and there will never be another like it.' As it happens, I was not so far wrong, but I blush to admit that the Tet offensive and the student unrest in France and Chicago had quite passed me by.

I was aware of the deaths of Martin Luther King and of Bobby Kennedy and (an instant hero by merit of his charm, his fiery delivery and his quickness on his feet. I had never witnessed a top-class lawyer in action before, and brain and tongue working so in synch struck me as no less a marvel than a leisurely cover-drive in response to a John Snow thunderbolt). I was aware of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Every child was. We understood about bullies.

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