This year’s Conservative Party conference has been “widely described as a wake”, says Rachel Cunliffe in The New Statesman. It was certainly “full of ghosts”. Theresa May was there, decrying the watering down of the ambitious net zero targets that her government passed into law. Liz Truss led a rally in support of the tax cuts and pro-growth reforms she tried to implement during her short stint as PM. But one figure from the recent political past appeared “resurrected and stronger than ever”: Nigel Farage.
Once again, the former Ukip leader seems to be the most influential person shaping Britain’s conservative politics, “above even the Prime Minister”. He was at the conference in his capacity as a GB News presenter, not a politician – he hasn’t been affiliated with the Conservative Party for more than 30 years. Yet he was one of the “star attractions” – and not just when he was singing and dancing to Can‘t Take My Eyes Off You with Priti Patel. You can see why. When Farage first reported on the migration crisis from the English Channel in 2021, he was “widely ridiculed”; today, both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have “vowed to take action”. And it was Farage who last year demanded the rethink on net zero that Sunak is now enacting. He has hinted that he could become more involved in the Conservative Party, and I’ve even heard it “wistfully suggested he should be the next Tory leader”. If that proves too outlandish, he will certainly play a crucial role in deciding Sunak’s successor. Never king, perhaps, but without doubt the kingmaker.