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Nigel Farage meets David Starkey and discusses immigration on GB News show Farage at Large at Samuel Peto Wetherspoon

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Just a few days ago, a giant Syrian refugee puppet called Little Amal arrived in Folkestone where she was greeted by crowds under blue skies on the seafront as actor Jude Law took her by the hand.

But there was no sign of Little Amal last night - and she certainly wasn't at the Samuel Peto Wetherspoon pub, where a slightly smaller crowd had gathered, under darkening skies and a full moon, to meet Nigel Farage.

David Starkey and Nigel Farage Picture: Stuart Mitchell
David Starkey and Nigel Farage Picture: Stuart Mitchell

And no sign of Jude Law to take him by the hand either. But of course Nigel Farage is not a giant puppet in need of celebrity endorsement... is he?

No, he's a celebrity in his own right, which is why around 100 people had bought a £1.50 ticket to see him, and get a free a pint.

The crowd was here for Nigel's new show 'Farage at Large', in which he promises to debate the 'tough subjects of the day', interview guests, and host a Q&A with the audience - all 'over a pint' of course - live on GB News.

I was among the lucky ticket holders and after being checked over by some stern security officials I made my way to the bar to claim my pint and survey the surrounds.

The pub is housed in what was previously a New Salem Baptist chapel - built with the help of C19th entrepreneur and civil engineer Samuel Peto - and the impressive church organ and architecture lent a mildly gothic edge to the atmosphere. Or was that down to the Halloween decorations behind the bar and over the stairs to the toilet?

Before I could spend much more time pondering the aesthetics, suddenly Farage himself appeared on the upper floor, framed by blinding TV lights set up for the show. Perhaps a blast on the church organ might have been apt at that point, but instead his entrance was greeted by an excited hum from the crowd - mostly keen supporters - assembled in the bar below.

After mingling with the crowd, Nigel disappeared and soon we were ushered upstairs and into position for the show, where I struck up a conversation with the man next to me.

He knew my home town from some years ago, but I told him it might have changed a bit since he was last there.

"There's a lot of estate agents and hairdressers now," I said.

"Turkish hairdressers?" he replied. "Is it a monopoly? If there is it’s usually people traffickers and drugs."

I wasn't too sure about that, but there was no time for our debate. The real thing was about to begin and a reverential hush descended on the upper floor of Spoons - giving an unusual air of formality to a place where people can get drunk at 10am most mornings.

Nigel Farage at the Samuel Peto
Nigel Farage at the Samuel Peto

That soon changed as show time neared - a stage manager whipped the crowd into shape with a few practice rounds of applause and then in came Nigel again, this time greeted by cheers and rapturous applause.

We were now coming live from the Samuel Peto as Nigel gave his introduction to the camera, then said something about immigration which was drowned out by more applause before he announced that he would be joined later in the show by a man "even more controversial than me - I mean it - Dr David Starkey".

Again there was no dramatic blast from the church organ.

Nigel, however, continued with the fervent passion of a preacher that seemed apt for the surrounds.

"Folkestone has always been on the front line of everything," he told the crowd. And it certainly was as our host set about bombarding the pub, GB News' viewers, and any controversial issue within range, with an hour-long barrage of full-on Farage.

People arriving at the pub to see Nigel Farage
People arriving at the pub to see Nigel Farage

First up for a battering were Covid restriction measures.

"Let me tell you one thing they are contemplating locking us down again," said Nigel, before warning the throng that restriction measures or vaccine passports could stop them coming into "this magnificent building".

"Many people are close to saying to hell with it," he added.

He was then joined by a fellow Nigel - Nigel Nelson, political editor of the Sunday Mirror, and Mr Nelson's wife Claire Pearsall a conservative councillor in Sevenoaks,

There was much mirth made from the fact the husband and wife couple were "diametrically opposed" on a number of issues, but Mr Nelson didn't seem to be laughing too much - especially when his backing for vaccine passports was mocked by Farage with a scathing "papers please! papers please!"

With the married couple split on the issue of vaccine passports, Farage turned to the audience.

"Do we want Covid passports?"


And that was that. Time for a break folks. Next up, immigration.

Now Nigel was joined by Ivon Sampson, Immigration Lawyer at Privatus, and Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, for a knockabout on illegal immigration.

"We’re all immigrants of the world but how many more people can we get over here?" whispered the man next to me.

The Halloween decorations gave a slight twist to the atmosphere
The Halloween decorations gave a slight twist to the atmosphere

I didn't know, but Ivon did.

"I think we have to accept it's 100,000," he said.

"He said 100,000 do you agree?" Nigel asked Alp.

"Most certainly not," he replied.

"Well done Alp!" said the man next to me.

The discussion continued in a similarly predictable vein for the rest of the debate, and through a Q&A with members of the audience, until it was time for the star turn with Dr David Starkey.

Dr Starkey hasn't been seen much on the airwaves since declaring in an 2020 interview that "slavery was not genocide otherwise there wouldn't be so many damn blacks in Africa or Britain would there?" - after which he apologised but lost a number of fellowships, senior positions, book deals, and his Medlicott Medal for service to history.

Yet here he was, back on prime time on GB News, cheered on by the crowd and laughing it up over a pint of ale with Nigel.

Nigel pointed out that David's controversies "make me look like a sort of trendy liberal violet", to which David replied: "I didn't transform British history. You are the politician singly responsible for Brexit".

It brought applause for both men, before the discussion continued on such hot topics as Anne Boleyn's head being chopped off and whether Henry VIII was the first Brexiteer.

The conclusion was that yes he probably was, and David noted, "What’s the use of an island if you don’t defend that island?"

Nigel Farage and David Starkey prepare to go live on air over a pint
Nigel Farage and David Starkey prepare to go live on air over a pint

It was an interesting point indeed, but as passionate as he clearly is about history, David reserved an extra level of passion for his detractors and the "cancel culture" which put the brakes on his career.

"If something supposedly given to you because you're a distinguished historian, is taken away because of a single slip of the tongue, that is not justice, that is not reason, that is not the proper correction of failure, it is mere crass vengeance," he railed. But he refused to be labelled a "victim of cancel culture" by Nigel.

"Do I look broken?" he said. "You're only a victim if you behave like a victim, if you're crushed like a victim. If you respect the people who do it.

"I don't respect them," he added and his voice began to quaver as he continued: "I treat them with the most absolute disdain."

"They are not worthy of shining my shoes, and I'm wearing suede."

If the mood had darkened a little during David's broadside attack, it was lightened by his last quip which brought a little laughter and more applause, and the pair rounded off by even suggesting they could make a good double act in the future.

Well, what Little Amal would have made of that, or the evening as a whole, is anyone's guess. She probably would have needed more than one of those £1.50 pints to relax in such company. But that would have been fine, she's a big lass after all, and could probably hold her drink better than a few members of Nigel's audience.

Amal means hope in Arabic, and it's in the name of hope that she's travelling around the UK on behalf of all refugees. Nigel on the other hand means different things, depending on where you're from - 'champion' in gaelic, or 'dark' in Latin, or if your Australian, it's slang for 'Nigel no mates'. In other words he's many different things to many different people. A chameleon perhaps?

Those at the Samuel Peto last night might have noticed he'd shifted shape slightly in his new role, from a politician to a showman.

Whatever shape he takes next, you'll recognise him by the pint in his hand - so look out, Farage could be 'at large' in a town near you soon.

'If you want to be a performer, you want to be a performer'

Nigel Farage pauses, he's just been asked why, five years after the Brexit vote, he's still putting himself out there.

"Once you've done it you can't resist, if you want to be a performer, you want to be a performer. The only difference in this job is you have to give both sides of the argument... is there a bit of rah rah with it? Well, I'm Nigel Farage."

Ahead of his show the Brexit Party founder speaks about what he's doing in a Folkestone Wetherspoon – it's mainly to do with immigration.

"Folkestone has been on the frontline of everything throughout history, from Napoleonic threat to today an issue that is rising rapidly up the agenda of people's concerns, far bigger than climate change, and that's what's going on in the Channel. Nearly 20,000 people this year have crossed.

"I'm here to have a debate with both sides of the argument," he pledges.

Nigel Farage at the Samuel Peto Wetherspoon Picture: Stuart Mitchell
Nigel Farage at the Samuel Peto Wetherspoon Picture: Stuart Mitchell

Just days ago Little Amal and Jude Law were in town, but what does he make of the giant asylum seeking puppet?

"I must say it's a rather sinister looking puppet. I'm not sure how that is meant to endear anyone," he quips.

When told the puppet is meant to signify hope he shoots back, without context, "tell that to the family of David Amess."

"We've got to get these things right, we've got to get the balance of things right, the Manchester bomber was the son of refugees.

"You can show me a dummy but have the people who did that seen who is coming over here?"

He claims those making the journey are "young men" some with "aggressive" mindsets. "This is not poor women and children," he suggests.

But would he like actor Law to take him by the hand as he did Little Amal?

He issues a bemused chuckle before saying: "I'd like to debate it with him, I doubt Jude Law knows the facts.

"There is this lovey world, let's all be kind and open our arms. This is a criminal human trafficking trade, many of the women go into the sex trade many of the men end up in slave labour. They come with this Dick Whittington dream but will end up disappointed."

Read more: all the latest news from Kent

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