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Britain’s Happy Warrior

Peggy GrandeApril 9, 2024

When I received an invitation to attend Nigel Farage’s 60th birthday party in London, I knew it would be a “don’t miss” event. The invitation had a cartoon drawing of Nigel, grinning widely, holding up a “pint”. The words were simply, “Please join me for drinks, music, and dancing to celebrate my 60th birthday.” I RSVP’d yes and booked a flight to London. The evening did not disappoint.

Media who both love and despise Nigel were there upon arrival – snapping photos of the who’s who of Britain’s UKIP / Brexit / Reform parties – like Richard Tice – and some surprising conservatives also joined in the celebration, like former Prime Minister, Liz Truss.

Once inside, guests were welcomed by a smiling Nigel, in black velvet dinner jacket, warmly greeting each guest and obliging constant requests for photographs. He was energized and contagious in his enthusiasm for what would indeed be a fun and memorable evening.

A Nigel Farage bust in the form of an ice sculpture slowly melted throughout the evening as the energy and collegiality of many long-lost friends reunited in celebrating one man – and paid tribute to political battles hard fought alongside him. Perhaps even some against him.

But tonight was not a night for battling, it was a unifying time to honour the man who changed Britain by leading their exit from the European Union - and did so as a happy warrior. There’s an inspiring charisma which exudes from Nigel – a man who takes his role, but not himself, too seriously. It’s refreshing, and rare.

I had the privilege of getting to know Nigel as a person, not just a politician, when I led a global organization called, “World 4 Brexit” following the historic Brexit vote. We formed W4B because we saw Parliament stonewalling the implementation of Brexit as an egregious breach of democracy and wanted to shine a spotlight of pressure on their blatant refusal to act upon the vote of the people. I was honoured to stand alongside Nigel in Parliament Square on January 31, 2020, when the UK formally left the EU. That historic evening was forever memorable itself yet celebrating it with the man who made it happen, was surreal and special. Nigel truly loves his country and fellow countrymen. That night of leaving was not just for him, but for everyone. Yet without him it never would have happened. The people of the UK know, and history will remember him for it.

On his 60th, many who helped Nigel win that Brexit victory were in the two-story venue at Boisdale of Canary Wharf – like Andy Wigmore and Arron Banks. The evening was packed with love and laughter. A conservative comedian had everyone in stitches with a cheeky and irreverent opening monologue which never could have been aired but had a perfect tone and pitch to connect with the audience.

Heartfelt tributes from one of Nigel’s sons, along with a friend of the Farage family, showed an endearing and personal side to a man many only know politically. All four of Nigel’s grown children were in attendance, which clearly meant the world to him.

The entertainment included a jingle from his GB News colleagues, along with a rendition of the irreverent Brexit song, “17 Million F#$k Offs”, which enlivened the audience to sing along. There was dancing and drinking. Lots of drinking. And smoking. Lots of smoking. The ambience of love and friendship was palpable. Nigel is a friend to so many. This was his night, and he was being celebrated in perfect style.

Two showstoppers of the evening were a surprise video tribute from President Donald Trump who, from Mar-a-Lago, greeted guests and paid tribute to his good friend Nigel – a fellow freedom fighter and champion for democracy, sovereignty, and patriotism. Trump’s words were sincere, personal, and heartfelt, showing their close relationship, mutual respect, and genuine friendship. There were glasses raised and chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!” as the video concluded.

But the main event of the evening was hearing from the birthday boy himself. To rousing applause, Nigel took the stage and cozied up to the microphone – a place he loves to be. He started by thanking everyone for coming – even those in the media who have written some nasty things about him in the past. He laughed harder and louder than anyone when he said that yes, there were some terrible accusations and characterizations made of him in the past – and that yes, many of them were indeed true.

He thanked his family for their love and support during a life’s journey which hadn’t been easy for him – or for them. Then he reflected on the many reasons he shouldn’t ever have made it to 60. He survived a plane crash, survived cancer, survived a bad car accident, survived the hurling of both insults and objects at him for years, and most recently survived some ghastly challenges in the jungle on “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!”. So, he said making it to 60 seemed worthy of celebrating. The crowd agreed.

Yet looking ahead he said there were still many pathways he could take. He could do what most people in their 60s do – retire, fish, enjoy the benefits of a lifetime of work, resting on the laurels of accomplishment. But no, he said, that doesn't seem a suitable path for now.

He said he could go to America and give speeches and make money. America loves him, he said, and as an American, I know that to be true. If Donald Trump returns to the White House, I’m sure the two would enjoy spending time together and strategize ways to Make America Great Again. While Nigel is a brilliant political strategist and certainly could find a welcoming and lucrative landing in the USA, that too, doesn’t seem how the life story of Nigel Farage will continue or end.

So perhaps, Nigel said, he has one more political card left to play in the UK. The crowd roared. Anticipating he might be making a big announcement, everyone pulled out their phones, wanting to capture the historic moment.

Yet Nigel, forever the master of captivating an audience, with the Reaganesque qualities of delivery and timing, said he wanted to announce something, had planned to announce something, but hadn’t entirely made up his mind - yet. Amidst a combination of laughter, cheering, and jeering, Nigel laughed loudest of all, knowing precisely what he was doing. And what he had done. Left us all wanting. And waiting.

So as Britain and the world await Nigel’s decision on what the next chapter of his political life, leadership, and legacy will be, let us all raise a pint to the cheerful warrior of Britain, who has already left his imprint on his country and its history, and at 60, appears to just be warming up.

Cheers to Nigel Farage – an extraordinary man, who has led a life of impact, meaning, and consequence. And isn’t nearly done yet.

Peggy Grande was executive assistant to Ronald Reagan and is author of “The President Will See You Now.” She served in the Trump Administration and is an international television commentator and columnist.

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