Heckles, jeers and standing ovations greeted Nigel Farage on Monday as his latest venture, The Brexit Party, held its first south coast rally in Shoreham.
Hundreds of supporters filled half a warehouse in Shoreham Airport, ushered through the front door by protestors brandishing EU flags and succinctly telling Mr Farage where he could stick ‘his Brexit’.
Inside, the former UKIP leader was met by backers whipped into a fervour by party chairman Richard Tice and his flagship candidate, the former director general of the British Chamber of Commerce John Longworth, with promises of a ‘peaceful political revolution’.
“What we are now fighting for is much, much bigger than Brexit,” he said.
“What we are fighting for is the very principle of democracy in this country. This is about who we are as a nation and how the rest of the world views us. This has been a total and utter humiliation and it simply isn’t good enough.”
An East Street meet and greet
Earlier in the afternoon, Mr Farage had met members of the public in Shoreham’s East Street – even dipping into East Street Barbers to help with a haircut.
Once again he was greeted with cheers and jeers in equal measure, from ‘go home, we don’t need you here’, to ‘we love you Nigel, you’re doing a great job’.
Wayne Green, a Shoreham resident, heckled Mr Farage throughout and had heated exchanges with some of his entourage.
“This man shouldn’t be here,” he said. “He is bringing up national identity and social revolution and you only have to look at the dangers of history with that.
“This man’s got to be challenged. Every word he says needs to be challenged.”
John Eaton, who voted for remain, said he thought Farage was a ‘very wise man’ and shared his view that the delay to leaving the European Union had caused chaos.
A pint in The Marlipins
After greeting well-wishers and posing for photographs, Mr Farage sat down with the Herald for an exclusive interview, over his customary pint of ale, in The Marlipins pub in High Street.
He reiterated the call for a political revolution and said Shoreham, which was chosen after the original Eastbourne venue cancelled at the last minute, was a perfect place to launch the south coast campaign.
“I came to Shoreham because where better?” he said.
“The things that are happening here are symbolic with what was going on during the referendum - it’s an import, export harbour, with trade and fishing.
“What the small and medium businesses want is resolution. They want this sorted out - we shouldn’t even be here.
“The rest of the world is looking on and we are a laughing stock. If this was an African country, we would be calling for the UN to come in.”
In an interview interrupted several times by members of the public offering handshakes and rebuttals, Mr Farage said it was time to transform the political landscape and challenge the two-party system.
The difference between The Brexit Party and his previous vessel, UKIP, he said, is the quality of the personnel. He pointed to private sector figures such as John Longworth, who under ‘normal circumstances’ would not have any interest in politics but had chosen to stand for the European elections.
The European elections are the first step and the party’s sole focus, he said, but by-elections and local elections would follow.
The former UKIP leader said he expected many disillusioned supporters from his previous party to move over to The Brexit Party.
He stopped short of setting out any potential election manifestos, but said the idea of right and left wing was outdated, particularly when it came to Brexit.
“It’s not a right or left issue, it’s a right or wrong issue,” he said.
“The old establishment has let us down. The political system needs to be challenged. The problem is, the politicians don’t fear enough. There’s not a political threat. We need to tell our political parties ‘you can’t betray us in this way’.”
He said the 52-48 2016 vote in favour of leaving had to be respected and talk of a second referendum, or revoking Article 50, was a betrayal.
That position marks a turnaround for Mr Farage, who was famously quoted in the Daily Mirror one month before the referendum saying a 52-48 victory for the Remain campaign would be ‘unfinished business’ and, in those circumstances, he would fight for a second referendum.
But he did not rule out a second referendum a few years down the line once the UK had left the European Union. He said it made sense for the public to see how it was outside of the EU and make a more informed decision.
With that, he polished off the end of his pint and made his way to the awaiting Brexit bus, which would ferry him to that evening’s rally.
The Brexit Party rally, Shoreham Airport
In the heated atmosphere of the MEL Group warehouse, Mr Farage told an empassioned crowd that the Government’s delaying of the Brexit process was a ‘betrayal’ and the two-party system in the UK was no longer delivering the will of the people.
“What we have seen from our politicians and our cabinet is nothing less than a betrayal of democracy in this country,” he said.
“We are not here to once again go over the arguments about why we should leave the European Union. Personally, I don’t want us to be run by a bunch of old men in Brussels. I am sick of the condescension and the lying.”
The Brexit Party was officially launched on Friday, with its sole focus on the European Parliament elections on May 23.
Initially formed of former UKIP members, Mr Farage told the media at the party launch that there were now 70 candidates who wanted to stand for the European elections.
“Nigel Farage, stick your Brexit up your...”
The chants of the protestors filtered through from outside whenever speeches ended or the rounds of applause died down.
Alastair Reid held a sign that said ‘stop stealing my children’s future’ and said his objections were for his family. He said: “I’m doing this for my kids. They are kids and grandkids of immigrants who have come to this country and contributed. I want my kids to be able to work and go to college wherever they want.”
Norman Carreck stood next to a giant, painted effigy of Mr Farage. He said: “We’re protesting to show that Nigel Farage is not welcome here. His new party is as vile as UKIP was and the man has been the most useless MEP and not representing us.”
As the evening’s rally came to a close, Mr Farage concluded with a mantra repeated several times during the day. “I believe that Britain needs the Brexit party, and the Brexit party needs you,” he said, before departing on the open-topped Brexit bus, pursued by a gaggle of flag-bearing protestors.