Baying crowds, blaring music, glossily produced videos and a catchy new US-style slogan. Yup, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party are back after a quiet summer and they’re cranking up the volume.
Boris Johnson has stolen the party’s togs since their triumph in the EU elections in May.
With No Deal back on the table, the new PM has got Eurosceptic Tories buzzing again. The Brexit Party balloon has been popped. The Farage fox wounded.
Nigel Farage greets Brexit Party members as he walks on to the stage for a Brexit Party conference in London on August 27
Their response was a hold a boisterous rally yesterday for 500 candidates it claims are now vetted and ready to fight a general election in autumn.
Our setting was the Emmanuel Centre, a conference venue in Westminster which doubles as an Evangelist church. Fitting. Such was the care invested into the event’s choreography, proceedings took on a particularly televangelist flavour.
Say what you like about Farage’s new operation, it’s slicker than a can of Castrol GTX.
Slicker than a can of Catrol GTX: Farage is pictured looking pleased with himself as he speaks at an event introducing prospective parliamentary candidates
‘We are ready’: Farage’s slogan appears self-congratulatory and attempts to rally on supporters and new members in London. He was joined by Richard Tice and Ann Widdecombe at the conference
‘We’re ready.’ That was the message for the day. The audience vigorously shouted it all morning. Spartan warriors on the eve of battle at Thermopylae were possibly less pumped.
Perma-tanned party chairman Richard Tice was first to appear, his arrival heralded by the sort of pulsating drumbeats echoing around Notting Hill Carnival all weekend.
He was in self-congratulatory mode. In the mere 19 weeks since its inception, Tice reflected, the party had changed politics for good.
‘19 weeks!’ he grinned. ‘I gotta tell you, it feels longer.’
Other speakers at the event in the Emmanuel Centre, near Westminster in London, were shadow chancellor John McDonnell, SNP leader Ian Blackford, Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats
Richard Tice and others a make a bold statement ‘I am ready’ with a grinning Farage at the front
They had helped get rid of the worst Prime Minister the country had ever seen, he said. It had also seen off the least talented Cabinet in history. And now the Tories were copying all their policies.
Such was the braggadocio that for a brief moment I thought he might try to claim a hand in Ben Stokes’s batting heroics in Leeds on Sunday.
‘Are you ready?’ he yelled. ‘We’re ready!’ the audience chorused.
And then it was time for the main event. Nigel Farage was tanned and trim. Down the auditorium stairs he bounded with the confidence of a Saturday night television host.
After the Boris surge, he’s in desperate need of a narrative. As such, the great leader was willing to talk turkey. He said would consider a non-aggression pact with the Conservatives should Boris be willing to hold his nerve and opt for a No Deal Brexit.
‘A Johnson Government and The Brexit Party working in tandem would be unstoppable,’ he enthused.
However, he warned any attempt to try to usher through Theresa May’s deal with a just few concessions on the dreaded Irish backstop would result in Brexit Party candidates standing in every seat of the country. ‘We could be your best friends or your worst enemy,’ Nige muttered darkly.
‘Are you ready? Are you sure you’re ready?’
We were served up a tart note with which to finish. Next on stage was Ann Widdecombe. Further whoops and cheers. Widdy wore raspberry ripple red and white. The hair still resembles an abandoned chaffinch’s nest and the gnashers could use a trip to the bleachers but the old trout’s energy remains as springy as ever.
Swinging her arms and stamping her feet on stage, her voice growing ever shriller, she could have been an out-of-time chorus member in a school production of Pirates Of Penzance. ‘Are weeeeee readdddy?’ she squawked.
Behind her, Chairman Tice gazed on, his lightly lacquered face a mixture of fear and wonderment. Shades of Victor Frankenstein admiring his monster.
Later in the afternoon, a motley collection of opposition leaders invited us to a room in Church House to announce their plans to block the Prime Minister proroguing Parliament in order to force through a No Deal. Atmosphere: Portentous.
We heard from shadow chancellor John McDonnell; SNP leader Ian Blackford; Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts; Caroline Lucas from the Green, and Anna Soubry from Hopey Changey or whatever they’re calling themselves these days.
After listening to these glumdrops spouting the usual ‘cliff edge’ platitudes, Farage was proved undoubtedly right.
A pact between him and Boris would be unstoppable.