Nigel Farage and President Trump constitute a political bromance that many of us could only dream of. And it will not end soon. As Mr. Farage has been deemed an “unofficial advisor” to President Trump.
Twice now, I have written about last summer’s EU Referendum for this publication. It should then come as no surprise that a friend recommended Arron Banks’s The Bad Boys of Brexit to me as reading material over winter break. The book serves as Mr. Bank’s daily journal and one of the first lengthy published accounts of the most momentous political event of many people’s entire lives.
The pages turn as if you are reading a fictional political thriller. But, sometimes things stranger than fiction play out in real life.
The opening pages include a “cast of characters” that may seem like a tedious read at first, but becomes a handy resource as we meet the eclectic group of figures throughout book — most of which will be new to American readers. Our author, Mr. Banks, was often labeled the “Bankroller of Brexit” by the British press — and rightfully so. In 2014 Mr. Banks rose to prominence after donating £1 million to Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party, or as it is more colloquially known — UKIP. Mr. Banks knows exactly who he is and doesn’t lie about it, he is the “naughty outsider” diamond-mine owning provocateur who wants to shake up the way the game is being played.
The book certainly lives up to its description as —“Tales of mischief, mayhem and guerilla warfare in the EU Referendum campaign” — detailing the efforts of the Leave.EU campaign from the very first meetings, to referendum day and beyond.
The adventures of the campaign take us to uncanny places and never lack the mischief we are promised at the outset. We engage in everything from meeting with eccentric — or rather, “fruit loop” — potential patrons. Our crew derides members of Parliament with personal insults, donates to the Communist Party to secure votes and visits a bar in Cleveland at 4 a.m. Hey, there is a reason why the book is not titled “The Merry Gentlemen of the EU Referendum Campaign.”
It was often the narrative that any relation between Brexit and the Trump campaign came after the June 23rd referendum. Whether that be when Trump spoke in Scotland on the morning after the vote, deemed himself “Mr. Brexit” on Twitter or campaigned with the real Mr. Brexit himself in Mississippi.
Then perhaps the most stark element of the book to me was the inclusion of President Trump throughout. In fact, thrice within the first 29 pages. Mr. Banks took a fair amount of inspiration from Donald Trump throughout the businessman’s lengthy campaign for President, which encompassed all of the book’s timeline. Writing on August 7 2015:
“Loved watching Donald Trump blow up the election in the States. The lofty British commentariat delight in competitive virtue signaling about The Donald, dismissing him as stupid and dangerous, but I think they are missing a trick. All over the world people are fed up with professional politicians. Outsiders are making the running. He represents a new kind of politics, and I think it is coming here.“
In fact, Mr. Banks recently used the term “drain the swamp” with regard to Westminster.
The same sort of shocking antics that Donald Trump’s campaign employed is exactly what Leave.EU hoped to emulate with their provocative social media presence that, funny enough, was widely influenced by Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The campaign also utilized constant television appearances and newspaper interviews wherever they could get them. There is no such thing as bad press, right? And like Donald Trump, the Leave.EU campaign sought from the beginning to make immigration a tentpole issue of their efforts.
However, this distinction can often be negative influence on the campaign and his own self-image. It is the reason that Leave.EU was refused the distinction of official “Leave” campaign, and the title instead went to more established figures heading the rival Vote Leave. And as Donald Trump knows, this devil-may-care attitude to the formalities of politics can often lead you into a bit more than hot water.
Anyone who has worked on a political campaign of any kind will appreciate the nitty-gritty elements of the efforts. The common things done by interns and entry-level staffers that truly make a campaign tick. Calling-lists that number in the tens of thousands, stuffing envelopes by the million and the exhaustive activity of canvassing your local neighborhood.
I especially loved the final pages of the book, which concludes a summary of Leave.EU appearance at a Trump rally in Mississippi and Mr. Farage’s speech to the crowd. I immediately burst into a smile when after the speech, President Trump turns to Mr. Farage and his crew and says, “These boys look like trouble.”
He got that right.
This title, or any other of recent books about Brexit should be essential reading for any global citizen this year. Especially as Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced a “clean break” from the European Union.
A new kind of politics is coming across the globe. One that rewards outsiders. And, yes, bad boys.