Saturday 1 October 2016

Nigel Farage leaves legacy of success and controversy

Published 04/07/2016 | 11:14

Gloating spectacle: Leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, during a special session of European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday
Gloating spectacle: Leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, during a special session of European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday

Nigel Farage leaves the national stage as one of the most divisive - and successful - politicians of modern times.

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Accused of stooping to racist imagery with the infamous "Breaking Point" poster depicting streams of refugees fleeing to the EU, Mr Farage saw his decades-long campaign for Britain to quit the grip of Brussels triumph in the narrow 52% to 48% victory for the Leave side in the landmark referendum.

After facing down numerous challenges to unseat him, Mr Farage, 52, has now decided to step aside as party leader after securing an historic victory against the odds.

Opponents within the party had been keen to see Mr Farage relinquish the Ukip reins so it could shake off its image as a one-man band.

The departure of such a polarising leader also makes it easier for the party to target traditional Labour heartlands it now sees as vulnerable, according to strategists.

Read more: 'I want my life back' - Nigel Farage to stand down as head of Ukip

This new electoral drive was signalled in Mr Farage's surprise announcement he was going, as he noted: "I have decided to stand aside as leader of Ukip. The victory for the Leave side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved.

"Whilst we will now leave the European Union, the terms of our withdrawal are unclear. If there is too much backsliding by the Government, and with the Labour Party detached from many of its voters, then Ukip's best days may be yet to come."

The once lone voice for Brexit who ended up speaking for a majority of the nation hinted he was now weary of the constant warfare of front-line politics, stating: "I want my life back, and it begins right now."

That will be good news to party critics who were dismayed when he announced he was standing down after last year's general election, only to change his mind soon after.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was cutting in his response to the move, telling the BBC: "It's a legacy of stirring up division. I am not sorry to see Nigel Farage leave the political scene."

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