Nigel Farage is in many ways a man of contradictions.
In sharp pinstripe suit, black fedora and colorful silk tie, he dresses like the City trader he once was. In his spare time, he lists fishing and country sports as interests.
Yet he likes to portray himself as a man of the people, with a pint of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Though frequently derided as “a little Englander” – a jibe at his isolationist views – he is married to a German. And though he says he hates everything about the EU, he is a lawmaker in the European Parliament.
So who is the UKIP leader and what is his appeal?
A 51-year-old former commodities trader, Nigel Farage comes from a well-to-do background.
Educated at the prestigious, fee-paying Dulwich College, he chose not to go to university but instead became a broker in the City of London.
Politics though was his real passion and, after defecting from the Conservatives, he was a founding member of Britain’s anti-EU UK Independence Party in 1993.
Farage, a father of four, is the UKIP MEP for South East England.
Now, though, the media-savvy politician has his sights set on a seat in the UK’s domestic parliament and is running in a tight race for the Thanet South constituency on England’s southeast coast.
Averse to political correctness, Farage peppers his speech with jokes and the odd expletive. He professes that although politics is a deadly serious business “it doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun too”.
Nonetheless, the UKIP leader is credited with bringing a new professionalism to a 20-year-old party long dismissed as part of a chaotic, far-right fringe.
He has seen UKIP multiply its support in the six years since Cameron dismissed it as “a bunch of … fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists”.
His ‘tell it like it is’ image is key to Farage’s appeal to supporters – and one reason why he is so loathed by critics.
Farage strongly rejects any suggestion he is a racist and says he favours an Australian-style selective immigration policy that chooses people because of their skills.
He blames the huge rise in immigration over the past 15 years for many social ills, including pressure on housing and the National Health Service
Never afraid of controversy, Farage has been attacked for criticising foreign HIV sufferers receiving treatment in the UK and “ostentatious” breastfeeding.
He had to leave one pub where he was having lunch recently after being confronted by protesters, including breastfeeding women.
Under Farage, UKIP’s two flagship policies remain that Britain should leave the European Union after a referendum and sharply cut immigration.
Naming his heroes, Farage has listed Robert Peel, a 19th-century Conservative prime minister who defied party aristocrats to end corn tariffs and promote free trade, William Wilberforce, who helped end the slave trade, and Enoch Powell, a leading Conservative ostracised in 1968 after criticising immigration policy in what became known as the “rivers of blood” speech.
What Farage said he admired about them all was that they challenged the status quo, regardless of the consequences.
UKIP says it would make St George’s Day, celebrating England’s patron saint, a national holiday in England.
UKIP (@UKIP) April 23, 2015
Illness and Accidents
Farage has survived being run down by a car – when he admits he was drunk – a plane crash during an election stunt in 2010, and testicular cancer, but says his lust for “living life” is undimmed.
He recently dismissed rumours that he is seriously unwell but said he had been dogged by chronic back pain that has hampered his ability to campaign for the May 7 election.
Despite a lower-key campaign performance than many had predicted, Farage warns pundits against writing UKIP off at this election. And, after bouncing back from so many trials and tribulations, his resilience cannot be doubted.
UKIP has been underestimated at every election in the past few years and I think we are going to surprise the pundits— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) April 22, 2015