A new “Special Relationship” between Britain and the US has emerged: the relationship between Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.
Both men have turned voter disaffection into electoral triumph.
Farage did so in the now infamous Brexit — taking the UK out of the EU; Trump in winning the US presidency.
Both men identified the other as a brother in arms along the way. So much so that at one recent rally, Trump told his supporters: “We are going to do something so special. It will be so special. It will be an amazing day. It will be called Brexit plus plus plus.”
The same people that didn’t expect the Brexit vote scoffed. Today, both Farage and Trump will feel vindicated.
70 years ago, Winston Churchill, in his famous “Iron Curtain” speech, forged a new phrase, casting the relationship between UK and US as a “Special Relationship”.
Trump and Farage ‘kindred spirits’
After the Brexit vote, Trump and Farage saw a different kind of transatlantic synergy — one where both men’s political message could feed off the other.
Appearing at a at Presidential rally with Trump, Farage told the Republican crowds exactly what he told the British before Brexit: “remember anything is possible if enough decent people are prepared to standup against the establishment”.
Trump and Farage are kindred spirits. Both men have galvanized a groundswell of anti-establishment sentiment and turned it into era-defining change.
They have spoken to those who feel that a liberal elite has left them marginalized.
In the UK, Farage was for a decade a fringe voice that few in the mainstream took seriously. His UK Independence Party (UKIP) always looked fractured and fragile. Most thought he’d never be more than an “also ran”.
Trump was also underestimated; Farage’s success could have only given him hope. With the UKIP leader by his side, he told a rally that “soon they will be calling me Mr Brexit”.
Campaigning together, Farage gave Trump yet more ammunition for his campaign, telling his supporters how Obama had come to the UK two months before the Brexit vote, urging Brits to vote against Farage: “he talked down to us, he treated us as if we were nothing”.
Both leaders had message of ‘fear’
For both men the message that resonated was one of fear, of immigrants, of the political elite, of experts, of being left behind in an unfamiliar post-industrial world where brawn counts less than brains and anyone’s job can be outsourced.
Both men cajoled and corralled the electorate with half-truths and flat out lies. In victory, Farage was fast to say that one of the biggest Brexit campaign slogans, a £350 million a week rebate from the EU once the UK left, was untrue.
Churchill’s “Special Relationship” with the US was to bring the two countries closer together, making Europe and the US safer in an uncertain cold war era.
Neither Trump, nor Farage — who has stepped out of UK politics now — have a fraction of Churchill’s political experience. The world however is once again entering uncharted territory, with threats and uncertainty piling up. It’s a big ask of anyone.
By Nic Robertson