Nigel Farage, leading Brexiteer, has called it a day as UKIP leader. There may be a palpable sigh of relief in Brussels, but as Rob Mudge warns, it wouldn't be the first time he makes an unwanted comeback.
"When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me - well, I have to say, you're not laughing now, are you?"
Those were Nigel Farage's words to the European Parliament last week in the wake of the UK's decision to leave the European Union - his two-fingered send-off to Brussels - although he will retain his seat to make sure his vision for the UK over the next two years is borne out - and to continue collecting his monthly MEP salary of over 8,000 euros. Who's having the last laugh, indeed?
His resignation as leader of the UK Independence Party may well spark much merriment but also bemusement in the corridors of power in Brussels and London. Good riddance, many will say, but there will also be a sense of wariness as to his motives for stepping down.
Brussels doesn't like surprises and after his fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson fell on his sword, you could be forgiven for wondering whether this is just another episode in a sinister plot being hatched by perfidious Albion and its House of Cards characters. Indeed, you wouldn't put it past him that his move isn't part of a bigger plan to continue being a nuisance on the political stage - after all, he's quit twice before, only to rise from the dead and "unresign." But right now for Farage it's a simple case of UK 1 - Brussels 0, job done, see you down the pub.
Unlike Boris, who misjudged the Tory party's shenanigans and failed to spot the Caesar-Brutus plot being played out in front of his eyes, Farage managed to backstab without being on the receiving end. Now he's chosen to leave on his terms. This was his life achievement, that's why he entered politics. Now he says he "wants his life back."
But whereas Boris was - somewhat surprisingly - undone by his own miscalculations that forced his hand, Farage has taken the coward's way out. He has done the UK and Europe a huge disservice and been a major part of a divisive and destructive campaign that has left the UK in political and economic limbo. He may say he wants his life back and he's welcome to it, but what about the lives, careers and businesses he's destroyed in the pursuit of his political ambitions?
British politics was in an almighty mess even before Farage's decision to step down, and measured against the historical standing and importance of Labour and the Conservatives - the so-called establishment parties Farage always detested so much - we should not give the man and his party more attention than they deserve. But his move is indicative of the way many of those who hold an influential political office leave the sinking ship once things become too messy.
The Brits love a character and if nothing else that's what Farage is. Years ago I interviewed him for one of DW's radio programs and as much as I disagree with his policies and daft ideas, I found him to be charming, eloquent, intelligent and knowledgeable. Which is why - for all his despicable rhetoric on immigration and foreigners (coming from a man who speaks fluent French and has a German wife) and his rants against an EU whose benefits and advantages he has enjoyed - I would certainly meet him at his local for a pint of beer in an effort to understand what drove and drives his misguided hatred of the EU.
His departure also means the end for his one-man party. No loss on either count, but you would dismiss Farage as a political has-been at your own peril. He will no doubt make life a misery for those in Brussels over the next two years, and God knows many in the higher echelons of power there deserve it, but they should make sure he gets a stiff dose of his own medicine.
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