Two and a half years ago, Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament, chartered a small aircraft to tow a campaign banner for the United Kingdom Independence Party, of which he is the leader. The plane, with Farage aboard, flipped and nose-dived onto a field in Northamptonshire. The accident broke his ribs, sternum, and spine, but not his taste for political mischief. “I survived a bloody crash,” Farage said last week. “I have more vigor and vim and gusto then I ever had before. I’m also an inch shorter.”
This was three days before the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, the primary victim of that vigor and vim. Farage, perhaps the continent’s fiercest and best-known Euroskeptic, was in Manhattan to attend a reception hosted by a hedge-fund manager from Geneva. The U.K.I.P., a feisty populist right-wing faction founded in 1993 in opposition to the Maastricht Treaty, which created the euro, has traditionally run lean, but Farage had identified the international hedge-fund community as a congenial source of support. The congeniality, on these shores, had been primed by widely circulated YouTube videos of Farage berating his fellow-members of the European Parliament for what he considers the folly of their grand unification project and their undemocratic manner of pursuing it. In one speech, addressing Herman Van Rompuy, the newly chosen (rather than elected) president of the E.U. and former Prime Minister of Belgium (“pretty much a noncountry”), Farage said, “I don’t want to be rude, but, you know, really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk.” Later, pressured to make an apology, Farage offered one—to bank clerks.