It was no surprise to see former United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage on the same stage as United States presidential contender Donald Trump the other day. They are very similar men.
Both are unabashed populists, very good at telling their audiences what they want to hear; both pose as champions of the common people against a complacent and uncaring establishment; both play fast and loose with the truth.
Trump sees Farage as a shining example of how this policy actually worked during the European Union referendum campaign: Short, simple messages repeatedly hammered home to people who want to believe them. When the rebuttals come they are inevitably too complicated and anyway are produced by the contemptable elite who are never to be trusted.
Perhaps the best example was Farage’s signature claim that Britain’s National Health Service would benefit by £350 million ($A604 million) once the UK quit the EU. It was wrong; it was proved wrong time and again, but the message still resonated – slap it on the sides of enough buses and people would believe it.
Of course Farage was not around to take the consequences. After one last joyous nose thumbing at the European Parliament he left the scene, leaving the Brexit campaigners to wipe their websites and pretend the claim had never been made.
For Trump the situation is different. Having taken control of the Republican Party he has had time to think about what he said during the primaries and was beginning to wonder if he should not be more ‘presidential’. Farage was there to reassure the candidate. Never mind what you say, just keep saying it. Forget the substance, it will be drowned out by the applause.
Build a wall right across the southern border with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. Pardon? No details, it will just happen if you elect me.
Over the past weeks there has been endless analysis of the EU referendum vote, including one article in which journalist Jeremy Fox argues that the supposed link between immigration into the UK and Brexit doesn’t stand up.
Fox found that in many cases, areas which had the least amount of immigration had the highest vote to Leave while others that had seen a considerable influx of immigrants seemed quite comfortable with the newcomers and were among the higher votes to Remain.
This left the Guardian newspaper to argue, quite reasonably, that it was the fear of immigration, not immigration itself, which was the driving force in Leave’s victory – and fear, of course, is bread and butter for those that want to ram home their points, however spurious.
Most sadly of all has been the spike in overtly racist incidents since the referendum vote, often directed towards second and third generation Britons who have absolutely nothing to do with the current immigration debate.
It may be this can of worms which will be the lasting legacy of Farage and Brexit.