'Normal' Nigel Farage resonates with UK seaside voters


  • World
  • Tuesday, 18 Jun 2024

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Reform UK Party Leader Nigel Farage attends the launch of the Reform UK manifesto in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, Britain June 17, 2024. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

CLACTON-ON-SEA, England (Reuters) - Nigel Farage's brand of politics has found a home in the English seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea, where voters described the right-wing party leader as a straight talker who, unlike other candidates, understands their problems and wants to solve them.

Britain's July 4 election will be Farage's eighth attempt to win a seat in parliament after the anti-EU, anti-immigration campaigner entered the race proclaiming his aim to supplant the ruling Conservatives as the main party of the right.

Farage is an expensively educated former financial trader. But decades of railing against the establishment have earned him the trust of supporters who say they feel other politicians talk down to them.

"I feel like he's more normal. He understands us," Venetia Maynard, 29, a cleaner, said while out shopping on Monday.

Clacton has all the hallmarks of a British seaside resort: fish and chips, ice creams, and pockets of deprivation left by a shrunken tourism industry and decades of underinvestment.

Interviewed on the day Farage launched his Reform UK's plan for government, Maynard said she was going to vote for him although she didn't know that much about his policies.

Under Britain's electoral system, Reform can't win this election, Farage himself said on Monday. But he says Reform can emerge as the main opposition to a centre-left government of the Labour Party, which is forecast by polls to win a thumping majority.

First, Farage himself must win a seat in Clacton. Polls show the seat is likely to be a close three horse race between Labour, the Conservatives and Reform.

Although he has been heckled on the campaign trail elsewhere, pelted with a milkshake and chunks of debris, no one in Clacton seemed to have a harsh word for him.

"I think he represents the working class a lot more than general politicians do. I mean, they’re so out of touch with the working class. How can they represent a labourer or a cleaner or a bus driver?" said Michael Chaplin, 32, a roofer, as he strolled along the seafront. Clacton is a place where many people feel left behind, he said.

Kevin Ives, 63, a carer, said Farage was “brilliant” and he would vote for him. "Because he says what’s totally obvious. If we keep bringing people into this country at the rate we are: eventually disaster."

ALL ABOUT NIGEL

Cultivating an image of a pub-loving British patriot, Farage spent over 20 years as an elected member of the European Parliament while arguing for its abolition. But although his party was able to win spots in European elections held under proportional representation, he never managed to win a seat of his own in parliament in the UK, under a first-past-the-post system that requires winning the most votes in a constituency.

In recent years he has worked the U.S. television circuit as a pro-Trump pundit.

Giles Watling, the Conservative candidate who has represented the area since 2017, said Farage had a "great personality" but voters should pick a candidate who cares more about the local area.

"What Nigel is doing is all about Nigel, and he doesn't really give two hoots for Clacton," Watling said.

Farage's previous political party, the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party, tasted its first success in Clacton when in 2014 a Conservative lawmaker defected to them and successfully defended the seat until 2017.

With Britain now outside the European Union, Farage's new mantra is that "Britain is Broken" - a message that resonates with voters who blame the ruling party for a turbulent and economically painful few years.

"I just think he’s a breath of fresh air," said Phil Tyler, 78, who works for the supermarket chain Tesco. "He gives me the sense that he’s really going to try and do something for this country."

(Editing by William James)

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