I have lost count of the number of times the Conservative Party has thought it has shot Nigel Farage’s fox. They stretch all the way back to David Cameron’s January 2013 pledge to hold an In/Out EU referendum, and include the party’s as yet unfulfilled summer promise to stop the illegal Channel crossings and its delivery of a trade deal with the EU that honours the fundamentals of Brexit.
Given that the Covid vaccines have also taken some of the sting out of the lockdown debate, which the former Ukip leader was poised to exploit, many Tories will have felt able to relax a bit about the challenge on their right-flank. If they hadn’t quite despatched the vulpine threat altogether, Jolyon Maugham-style, then surely they’d at least driven him away from the hen house.
In which case I would urge them to listen to Nigel Farage’s New Year message. Because the old boy has just thrown them a curve ball.
The murderous Chinese Communist Party pose a threat to freedom the world over. pic.twitter.com/4UZB2s9O3S
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 3, 2021
While Farage references the imperfections of the Boris Brexit deal in relation to Northern Ireland and fishing, and predicts that a sub-standard Cabinet may well mess up the Covid vaccination programme, he quickly pushes both concerns to the margins.
Instead, he announces, his central campaign for the year ahead is going to be about raising awareness of the threat to western democracy posed by China.
‘China is doing its absolute best to take over the world,’ says Farage, singling out its ‘throttling democracy in Hong Kong’ and taking over mineral resources in Africa.
Farage has quite a record as a political futurologist. He not only cottoned-on early to the potential impact that EU enlargement in 2004 and the ensuing wave of eastern European immigration would have on UK public opinion, he was also the first British politician to understand that Donald Trump had a strong chance of winning the 2016 US presidential election.
So could a long-term geo-political development such as the remorseless rise of China become a major vote-shifting issue in Britain anytime soon? Even in the wake of Covid, it is difficult to see it competing with living standards, jobs, healthcare, law and order and all the other usual big issues.
Yet it still has the potential to promote and add depth to the Farage brand, making it more marketable on the international lecture circuit and leading more UK voters to appreciate that here is a substantial political figure who cannot be dismissed as the proverbial one-club golfer.
The Conservatives are busy extricating themselves from the Cameron-Osborne era during which they took a large wager on being able to use commercial tie-ups to encourage a progressive tilt to the behaviour of China.
Five years ago, after a week-long visit to China, Osborne claimed that the UK had become its ‘best partner in the West’ and predicted a ‘golden era’ for relations. The Chinese were handed lucrative stakes in key UK infrastructure projects such as 5G and new UK nuclear plants.
The Tories would no doubt like that disastrous bet to be allowed to slip quietly from public consciousness and instead have their rising generation of big brains devise a new muscular approach to take its place.
With Farage on the case, there is no chance of a quiet life at all. With his huge social media following, he will be noisy, direct and relentless. ‘We need to wake up to the threat and make sure we are no longer dependent on China,’ he says.
This isn’t to say that all the other potential issues identified by Farage and his chief lieutenant Richard Tice as fodder for a new Reform UK political vehicle have gone away. They will still no doubt be making the case in the year ahead for dynamic tax cuts, smarter public sector procurement, lighter regulation, tougher immigration policies and a war on Woke.
But the decision to highlight above all else the threat posed by China would seem to me to imply a Nigel Farage as much concerned with the international stage as the domestic one in 2021. It will also help him to take further pot shots at the EU, which has just bought into the Chinese Communist Party in a big way with a new investment deal that doesn’t seem to include much in the way of human rights undertakings.
If the result of this new Farage focus is to speed the transition of the UK Government’s China policy from one characterised by Yuan signs in the eyes, to an appreciation of the ruthless and untrustworthy nature of the CCP regime, then he will have done us all a favour.
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