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Our political editor Paul Francis gives his analysis on Nigel Farage's decision to quit


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Few politicians have divided opinion as much as Nigel Farage has.

But the one thing most would agree is that he has been a pivotal figure in UK politics in the last decade and for better or worse, has shaped the political landscape in a way that few others have.

Nigel Farage has announced he is leaving frontline politics by stepping down as leader for Reform UK
Nigel Farage has announced he is leaving frontline politics by stepping down as leader for Reform UK

He galvanised popular support for his most important cause - getting the UK out of the EU - by depicting himself as a political leader who was "not like the others".

It served his cause well, especially in articulating the views of many who were increasingly frustrated by the unwillingness of the mainstream parties to listen to their concerns about the UK being subsumed into a European superstate, immigration and loss of sovereignty.

Kent was a central battleground. As Ukip leader he tapped into the disquiet and misgivings of ‘ordinary’ voters to build - for a brief period - a platform in the county from which to lead the Brexit cause.

Political high watermarks came in county council elections in 2013, when Ukip came perilously close to depriving the Conservatives of outright control in Kent by returning 17 councillors.

That was followed a year later when the party triumphed in the European Parliament election.

As Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage visits Rochester ahead of the European Elections. Picture: Andy Jones
As Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage visits Rochester ahead of the European Elections. Picture: Andy Jones

The party then pulled off a coup in November the same year with the defection of Rochester and Strood Conservative MP Mark Reckless.

But his own failure to win a seat in Parliament in a ferocious battle in South Thanet in the 2015 general election stalled the momentum despite the party securing four million votes.

Farage marked defeat by announcing he was to stand down as leader - only to say that he’d put himself forward in the subsequent leadership contest.

Nevertheless, the pressure for a referendum proved too great for the government and David Cameron announced a poll in June 2016.

Farage took centre stage in the ‘leave’ campaign and was rewarded by victory, albeit by the narrowest of margins. Kent, with the sole exception of Tunbridge Wells, voted to leave.

Nigel Farage visits Gravesend ahead of the European Elections. Picture: Andy Jones
Nigel Farage visits Gravesend ahead of the European Elections. Picture: Andy Jones

It seemed that might end his political career but in characteristic fashion, he returned to the political frontline in 2019, founding the Brexit Party to exert pressure on the government to enact the people’s mandate to leave the EU.

Once again, his instincts proved accurate: from a standing start, the party won the European Parliament election.

If there was a time for him to depart from politics, that was it.

But it seemed he wasn’t finished and confounded critics by launching the Reform Party, a rebrand of the Brexit Party.

It was initially set up to campaign against the Covid-19 lockdown and there were expectations that it would contest the upcoming council elections.

Craig Mackinlay won the South Thanet Parliamentary seat over Nigel Farage in 2015
Craig Mackinlay won the South Thanet Parliamentary seat over Nigel Farage in 2015

But he has decided to step away from politics, saying that he found aspects of leading the Reform Party tough.

Could he come back? Anything is possible with Farage but there is a sense of finality about his announcement.

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