British Euroskeptic Leader Under Pressure to Go

Nigel Farage is the face of the UKIP but some fear he is turning the party into a personality cult.

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Since his party won only one seat in the British general election earlier this month, Nigel Farage has come under increasing criticism from those in the United Kingdom Independence Party who believe it’s time for him to step down after eight years as leader.

Farage had promised to resign if he failed to win a parliamentary seat for himself in South Thanet but was reinstated three days later by a party that probably recognized it would do worse without him.

Farage, who also leads the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament, has been the face of UKIP for years. The party’s popularity has risen from under 5 percent to 15 percent since he became party leader for a second time in 2010. But Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system makes it difficult for third parties to win seats in Parliament. Its only member in the House of Commons is Douglas Carswell, a Conservative Party defector.

Since the election, several donors and party officials have nevertheless called on Farage to step down.

Patrick O’Flynn, one of UKIP’s members of the European Parliament and its campaign director, criticized Farage in an interview with The Times, saying he was becoming a “snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive” man who made UKIP look like a “personality cult.”

O’Flynn stepped down as the party’s economics spokesman on Tuesday.

The conflict isn’t all about personality. O’Flynn also lamented that Farage was taking UKIP “in the direction of some hard-right, ultra-aggressive American Tea Party-type movement.”

UKIP used to be more libertarian. It has expanded its working-class support by campaigning against gay marriage and immigration. It now also supports the National Health Service which it previously wanted to liberalize.