Not for the first time in his colourful life, the perennial rebel Nigel Farage has the establishment on the run. This time it is the financial establishment and its media allies. The former Ukip leader has already garnered apologies over conduct or coverage from NatWest, which owns Coutts bank, the high-profile podcaster and former BBC man Jon Sopel, the BBC’s business editor Simon Jack and the chief executive of BBC News Deborah Turness.
Farage is currently circling NatWest chief executive Dame Alison Rose in the manner of a hungry shark who has scented blood in the water. Not his, but hers. Dame Alison appears to be Farage’s prime suspect in the leaking of confidential details about his financial standing. ‘I will find out the absolute truth about who leaked my personal financial details to the BBC,’ Farage has said.
He is also making a beeline for Coutts CEO Peter Flavel, whom he accuses of ignoring him. ‘Did he take the decision to close my account for political reasons? We need to know,’ Farage has demanded.
The key lesson to be drawn from this episode is not just that messing with Farage is a dangerous business, but that his ability to connect with public opinion and shape the agenda has actually grown since Brexit. Partly this is down to the sheer number of hours of live TV broadcasting he has clocked up after becoming a GB News anchorman two years ago. He has learned to calibrate his utterances more carefully since his Brussels-bashing days, during which he once accused the then president of the European Commission Herman Van Rompuy of having ‘the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk’.
While it is high-grade bank clerks who tend to get the rough end of his tongue these days, he is as likely to deploy under-statement as exaggeration on his early evening show and has gained in authority and broadened his appeal as a result.