Becoming a lord is Nigel Farage's only chance to stay in power

After January when Trump is inaugurated, Farage will see his power and access snatched away.

Nigel Farage and Donald Trump have 'incredibly productive' meeting on 12 November 2016Reuters

During last year's General Election TV debates, Nigel Farage pursued what was described by his aides as a "shock and awful" strategy – making offensive comments that gave him definition and energised his fanbase.

But the Ukip leader's meeting with Donald Trump last weekend was good old-fashioned shock and awe: the photograph of the two men standing in front of ornate gold doors in Trump Tower will have caused shock among protocol-sensitive British diplomats in Washington and panicky aides in Downing Street; to Brexit supporters back home, it was awe-inspiring. Yet Farage's informal access to the president-elect cannot last.

After inauguration, Trump would have to abide by the protocol that dictates that presidents deal with prime ministers, no matter how much the billionaire likes to do things his own way. The contact may continue, but it would be restricted.

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Maybe both Trump and Farage recognised this in their hour-long meeting – a chance to hug it all out before tradition and precedent create a wall between the two. After January, Farage will see the power and access snatched away. And then what will he do?

This is why Farage should accept a peerage, if it has indeed been offered, from Theresa May. The prime minister failed to deny on Wednesday (16 November 2016) that an offer has been made, and it would make sense for her to put it on the table. Being a member of the House of Lords would keep Farage in the tent but not hogging the warmth of the fire – at arm's reach rather than off the leash. The Ukip leader has himself hinted he could be prepared to rejoin the Conservative Party, saying earlier this week "let's see what happens".

If he is already entertaining that thought, then a seat on the red benches isn't such a great leap. Members of the Lords can exercise some independence, even when they are affiliated to political parties. With the government announcing that it would no longer attempt to curb the power of the Upper Chamber to block legislation, the Lords remains a place for independent and often rebellious thought. Farage could justify taking the peerage to his supporters as giving them a voice and having a real say on the government's policy on Brexit. To Farage, this must be a tantalising offer.

Critics will say that accepting a peerage would show Farage is joining the very elite that he has successfully fought against. But as both an MEP and a figure at the heart of British politics, he cannot seriously claim to be an outsider. He will soon find his interim leadership of Ukip is over when the party elects a successor.

Ukip itself faces an uncertain future, having fulfilled its raison d'être, with senior figures predicting the party may not exist in five years. At the moment, Farage is to turn the political cliche on its head, in power but not in office. If he were to turn down a peerage, he could find himself with neither.


Jane Merrick is a freelance journalist and former political editor of The Independent on Sunday. She writes an allotment blog, www.heroutdoors.uk. Follow : @janemerrick23


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