Love him or loathe him, you can’t argue that Nigel Farage hasn’t had a significant impact on UK politics in the last five years. Although his numerous attempts to gain a seat in the House of Commons have failed, the MEP has successfully set the agenda, particularly for the Conservative Party. It was Farage and UKIP who helped to push former Prime Minister David Cameron’s into offering a referendum, and with his new Brexit Party, Farage topped last month’s European elections, winning the biggest share of seats amid a backlash against the mainstream parties.
Farage’s efforts have been helped by a high media profile, which has seen him appear regularly across all the UK news channels, and that profile now seems to be translating into an upturn in his personal political fortunes. Take the ‘Nigel Farage to Become Prime Minister’ markets that are being offered by some UK betting companies. Back in February, he could be backed at 125/1 to become Prime Minister in 2019. That price is now 9/1. And the odds of Farage becoming Prime Minister by 2025 have also collapsed from double figures to 2/1.
Those odds reflect both the fact that Conservative voters have switched to the Brexit Party en masse since Prime Minister Theresa May missed the Brexit deadline of March 29, and the possibility of a snap General Election while the feelings of Brexiteers are running high.
There are, however, significant barriers to a Brexit Party victory and Farage becoming Prime Minister. Whilst the UK electorate have a history of using European and local elections to register protest votes over single issues, that rarely transfers to General Elections, where a range of issues are considered, and the Brexit Party’s big disadvantage is that they lack coherence on any issue other than Brexit.
Indeed, it seems likely that some of Farage’s non-Brexit ideas, such as his views on the future of the NHS, would be deeply unpopular if put before the voting public in a General Election, as would his links with various unsavoury extreme right-wingers in Europe. Farage is riding high right now, but whether he can surf that Brexit wave into Number Ten remains to be seen.