Nigel Farage, on His First Day at Westminster, Reminds the Commons That His Eye Is Out for Brexit

The new session of Parliament is off to a spirited start, but some fault lines and party differences come to the fore.

Maja Smiejkowska/PA via AP
Reform UK MPs, left to right, Lee Anderson, Nigel Farage, Richard Tice, and Rupert Lowe, arrive at the House of Commons, July 9, 2024. Maja Smiejkowska/PA via AP

It was something to see Tuesday Prime Minister Sunak address Parliament for the first time as Leader of the Opposition, the suave but humbled child of the 80s and Sir Keir Starmer having swapped seats. And what a sight to watch Reform UK’s Nigel Farage spill cold tea on the kumbaya moment as he reminded the newly reelected House Speaker of the momentousness of Brexit.

Exactly why he chose to do that takes some unraveling. Aside from the palpable euphoria among all the new Labour faces, the brief episode was the most interesting thing to come out of the start of the new Parliament. Mr. Farage was one of the five new Reform parliamentarians to arrive at Westminster and it was something of personal triumph for the 60-year-old — his eighth attempt at clinching a seat in Parliament.

Mr. Farage’s characteristic if polarizing charisma was on display as he congratulated Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was first elected to the role of House Speaker in 2019, on his reelection to that post. Sir Lindsay’s predecessor was John Bercow, who in winter 2019 broke with house convention by blocking the government’s attempt to bring the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement — that is, Brexit —  to a third vote. That led some Brexiteers to accuse him of trying to block Brexit altogether. 

Mr. Farage was at the time the head of the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, and a leading architect of Britain’s exit from the EU. The accomplishment of Brexit is for now his trump card, so to speak, as he enters Parliament as a newcomer. His first remarks signaled that he will not hesitate  to play it.

Mr. Farage called Sir Lindsay  a “marked contrast to the little man that was there before you, who besmirched the office so dreadfully.” To audible gasps as well as a few groans in the House, he added that Mr. Bercow had, at least in his estimation, tried “to overturn the biggest democratic result in the history of the country.”

It was a reference to the referendum of June 23, 2016, in which a slim majority of Britons voted in favor of leaving the European Union. Mr. Farage prefaced his  remarks by telling the speaker that the five Reform MPs are “the new kids on the block.” That assessment was shared by another Reform lawmaker, Lee Anderson, who wrote on X that “the fox is in the henhouse.”

Mr. Anderson, who is sometimes derided by Fleet Street as “Leeanderthal,” has been branded a Tory turncoat by some for switching in March to Reform from the Conservative party. That move might have been prescient, considering the recent Tory wipeout and stunning win for Labour that occurred in the general election on July 4.

There is no doubt that the Tories are damaged goods. Without a lot of hyperbole, the former Home Secretary,  Suella Braverman, said on Tuesday that Reform now poses an “existential threat” to a badly battered Conservative party. How battered, by the way? Consider that Tory party stalwart Jacob Rees-Mogg, having lost his seat in Parliament, is now exploring opportunities in reality television

Mr. Sunak was bereft not only of his former title and all the trappings that went along with it but, more significantly, of even the shred of a mandate — not even in opposition. Mr. Farage, on the other hand, is not only someone who has done more than either Mr. Sunak or — so far — Sir Keir to move British history forward, has shown that he will speak up and, when he deems it prudent, upset the apple carts. He has already said that he will be coming after Labour

Nobody in a newly ebullient Labour Party seems much fazed by that prospect right now; the July honeymoon is still in progress. 

Battles over things like migrant boats illegally crossing the English Channel and overhaul of the National Health Service have only just begun.

And by evoking his past achievements on day one of his new career in the House of Commons, Mr. Farage is putting Sir Keir and just about everybody else on notice that there will be no backtracking on Brexit — not, at least, on his watch in the  hallowed commons by the Thames.


Correction: Lee Anderson is the name of the Reform UK member of parliament. The name was spelled incorrectly in the bulldog.

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