The Unholy Bond Between Donald Trump and Nigel Farage
Currently, Nigel Farage is Trump's only real British political ally. What does that mean for the future of British-American relations?
Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. Photo: Gerald Herbert AP/Press Association images
This post originally appeared on VICE UK
Donald Trump's election victory poses a problem here in the UK. On the one hand, Trump is a terrifying demagogue who, if left unchallenged, could well bring about the end of modern America. On the other, he is now president-elect of the USA, a nation with whom we must always strive to maintain our "special relationship."
And that special relationship is already looking a bit shaky. Theresa May is said to have been the ninth world leader to receive a call from Trump after his shock win. Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Israel, Turkey, India, Japan, and South Korea all took priority. By anyone's standards, that's not a special relationship.
No one really expected Trump to win, which means there are some rather awkward opinions now hanging in the air. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson (a phrase that has long since stopped being funny) recently accused Trump of "quite stupefying ignorance" and said he was "frankly unfit to hold the office of President of the United States."
Of course, a knack for offending world leaders is kind of Johnson's thing—having once authored a poem in which the Turkish president engaged in sexual relations with a goat. Still, given Trump's notoriously thin skin, it's hardly the start we might have hoped for.
Since the election result was announced, Johnson has urged everyone in the UK to stop the "whinge-o-rama" and be "positive about the possibilities." This was, of course, very easy for Johnson to say. After all, this is a man whose career has involved more U-turns than a driving instructor's, and for whom actions could not be further divorced from consequences.
There is at least one UK politician who has remained steadfast in his convictions about Trump. Step forward Nigel Farage. The former UKIP leader has long been been explicit in his desire to see a racist accused of sexual misconduct installed in the White House, and is not about to change his mind now.
Rumors now abound about the role that Farage could play in fixing up our relationship with the US. As well as not having actually insulted Trump, Farage has the benefit of having met him, after he was invited to speak at a rally for the presidential hopeful in August. Just a few days before, Trump had declared himself "Mr Brexit." Farage told the crowd: "You can go out, you can beat the pollsters, you can beat the commentators, you can beat Washington, and you'll do it by doing what we did for Brexit in Britain." And, would you believe it, he was right.
In a video message recorded shortly after Trump's victory, Farage was at pains to draw those comparisons again: "The political revolution in 2016 is that, in two massive campaigns, the underdogs beat the establishment. We did it in Brexit, and Trump did it last night in the USA. And that's despite the commentators, the media, the established politicians, and clearly in the Republican party, most senior Republicans didn't even back Donald Trump, and yet he did it."
There is much debate about the extent to which Trump's victory represents America's Brexit moment. Either way, there are certainly similarities between Trump and Farage. Both excel when railing against the political elite and the mainstream media. Their approach owes less to their political forebears than it does to David Icke, so it is perhaps ironic that there are no two men on Earth who look more like lizards trapped uncomfortably within ill-fitting human skin.
Trump's victory was in part due to his ability to channel the anger felt by many white Americans about their perceived loss of status—and to focus this anger on an ill-defined elite. In doing so, he became the first billionaire to win the presidency. Likewise, Farage frequently rails against the evils of big business and bankers. He conveniently forgets the two decades he spent working in the City. None of it matters in a time of post-truth politics.
There is, however, one key difference between the two men. Trump has been elected to lead the most powerful nation in the world. By contrast, Farage recently failed to be elected in South Thanet, his seventh attempt to become an MP. And yet, despite his history of electoral failure, Farage helped bring about an earthquake in British politics. First Brexit, now Trump. The once unthinkable is now reality. Could Farage ever take up a role on the world stage?
Downing Street has insisted that Farage has no place as a go-between to Donald Trump. It remains unclear whether his fascist credentials were a positive or negative consideration. Either way, an unwillingness to indulge Farage in Whitehall may not matter. Despite his moans about the views of the "commentariat," Farage wrote a column for the Telegraph yesterday celebrating Trump's victory. In fairness, it was less a piece of commentary than a job application.
"In this country, Trump was utterly discounted and friendless," he said. "Indeed, I think I was the only political figure that offered any help or support at all." For Trump to succeed, he added: "It is vital that like the much maligned, at least initially, Ronald Reagan, that he makes the right appointments." As we have seen from his campaign literature, Farage has never been one for subtlety.
In a Talk Radio appearance earlier that day, Farage was asked about the prospect of May meeting Trump and his tiny wandering hands. In response, he replied: "I could be there as the responsible adult to make sure everything is OK." Welcome to the new reality. We are entering the Trump era with Farage as our chaperone.
Or perhaps not. Trump's Twitter feed has long been a source of not so subtle clues as to the man's intentions. As one might expect from a world-leading narcissist, he only follows 41 accounts, many of them owned by his own hotels and children. His followers include the former UKIP leader. Tellingly, he has not followed Nigel Farage back.
He does, however, subscribe to updates from disgraced British newspaper editor and failed talk show host Piers Morgan. As for Piers, his own timeline has been full of praise for Trump since his victory. He might not be first choice for US emissary. But, as we all know, the key to any successful relationship is compromise.
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