Richard North, 15/11/2019  

On top of saving the NHS, Labour is now going to provide free Wi-Fi to every home, funded by a new tax on Big Tech companies including Facebook, Google and Amazon. This would include nationalising the BT infrastructure provider, Openreach, the total cost running to £30 billion trillion, or some other fantasy sum.

So Corbyn stokes up another distraction, another wild (and expensive) scheme which saves him the trouble of having to deal with the reality of Brexit. One wonders what he will do for an encore.

As for Johnson, in between taking the flak for A&E waiting times, he has been seeking out his intellectual equals, attending an infant school in Taunton. There, he furnished evidence that a classical education does not run to learning the words of the nursery rhyme, "The wheels on the bus". Maybe he would have had better luck if he had tried it in Greek or Latin, although "rotae bus supra revolvi et revolvi" might not have quite the right cadence.

Meanwhile, the long-running Farage soap opera seems to be reaching a new climax, verging on the surreal as The Great Leader threatens to turn the police on the Tories, accusing them of bribery and corruption, and probably worse if he can make it stick.

This comes after the Tories have done what they do best – shafting anyone who gets in their way, in pursuit of political advantage. Thus, after Farage had climbed down with his unilateral declaration of surrender, wiping 317 candidates off his ready board, the Tories came back for more.

Threatening to give Brexit Party candidates unmentionable things like "jobs and titles", or so we are told, poor Richard Tice has been overwhelmed with dismay.

The Brexit Party chairman has been complaining all day long that the Tories should resort to such dirty tricks, all in the interests of stopping rival candidates siphoning off votes in that vulgar thing called an election. It is so much better if they can be headed off at the pass. Nonetheless, Tice is "proud and grateful that our candidates have resisted these distasteful overtures and stood firm".

Poor old Nige, at times, has seemed almost crestfallen as his mask slips. He rails at the "extraordinary" levels of "abuse and intimidation" suffered by his troops, comparing it with the crisis in Venezuela.

There, of course, over recent months thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets over food shortages and claims of corruption, while hundreds have been injured, so one can immediately see how very similar the situations are.

But then, this is a man who went to Hull in East Yorkshire (or Humberside, as the bureaucrats had insisted on calling it), and mistook it for South Yorkshire. Possibly, it was difficult to see through the nose-bleeds, with him being this far north.

To his great surprise, though, Farage seems to have discovered that Boris Johnson's party only cares about getting a Conservative majority in parliament, and not about securing a pro-Leave majority. Now there's a thing.

For once, though, John Crace isn't ahead of the field in charting the decline and fall of The Great Leader. Although the Guardian columnist avers that, "Campaign genius Nigel Farage has totally self-partnered himself", the Telegraph is also on the case.

With somewhat less wit, this paper headlines: "Nigel Farage's election campaign flounders as he claims Tories want to buy him off", reporting that "it appeared the wheels had well and truly come off the prominent leaver’s election campaign". One is not quite sure whether these are the wheels of the bus, but there is one certainty here – "Boris and Nige" are not singing from the same hymn sheet.

Significantly, the paper cites John Curtice, who has been briefing journalists in Westminster, where he posed the following question: "What's the evidence that Nigel Farage can win a seat anywhere in Labour territory? Please tell me - I do not know where it exists".

The polling guru accused Farage of "talking nonsense" about his electoral strategy, warning that standing candidates in Labour-held marginals will hurt the Conservatives more than Labour. Curtice thus "appeared to confirm fears that the man who has spent the last 25 years campaigning for Brexit still risked it being reversed".

The paper then concludes that, with his own poll numbers now in single digits - and the day ending with the resignation of two more Brexit Party candidates – Farage's campaign appears "to be sinking faster than his chances of being hailed the next Lord of Thanet".

This is something The Times focuses on, reporting that Farage was facing "a rebellion within his party" as parliamentary candidates, including one of his MEPs, defied him and pulled out of the general election.

The MEP was Rupert Lowe, representing the West Midlands, and had been due to contest Dudley North, one of the most marginal seats in England. He said that he was "putting country before party" as he withdrew at the last minute with an attack on Farage's electoral strategy.

The Times tells us that, as Lowe announced that he had quit, a minute before nominations closed, he said that standing could have let in Labour by the back door. His late decision meant that the Brexit Party did not have time to scramble another candidate for the seat.

But if that is a somewhat downbeat report, Crace in the Guardian is merciless. "The dream is dying", he writes, observing that:
Things fall apart. The Brexit party's poll ratings are in freefall. The Bad Boys of Brexit have fallen out with each other. Arron Banks has gone cold on Nigel Farage. The money is drying up. And so are the crowds. Six months ago, Nigel could fill medium-sized arenas. Now the function room of the Hull Ionians rugby club in a small town outside Hull is way too big for him. Only 15 rows of chairs had been set out and two of them had to be removed shortly before the start. Not even a 1970s glitter ball hanging limply from the ceiling could help bring in the crowds.
What goes around comes around (like bus wheels). In 1999, when Farage was touring the southeast, drumming up support for his election as an MEP, he had difficulty pulling in the crowds. At one venue, he found himself with an audience of a single pensioner and the caretaker of the hall he had rented.

From the hubris of his candidate launch only days ago, Crace writes that "Nigel has cared about this stuff for 25 years and now he can feel it turning to dust in his hands". Worst of all, "he doesn't even know what to think or what to do right now. He thought he had managed to game the system only to discover that the system had his number all along. All he can do is plod on regardless, drifting ever closer to nothingness".

Like as not, we haven't heard the last of Farage, but his political career in the UK is effectively over. And nor can one have any sympathy for the man. His is a story of lost opportunity, a man who doomed Brexit to chaos by his failure to embrace a realistic exit plan.

He's had a good run on other people's money but, when called upon to deliver, his lack of strategic acumen has left him floundering and irrelevant.

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