History never repeats itself but can offer echoes and rhymes. One rhyme coming shortly is Gladstone's Midlothian campaign. The old man had retired, deeply wounded by Disraeli's victory of 1874. He was enticed back by the difficulties of that Government, and Gladstone made a barnstorming attack on the misdeeds of the Ottomans. "The Turks one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the provinces they have desolated and profaned." He was especially incensed by British military intervention in Afghanistan. The Liberal leader Rosebery had attended a Democrat convention in New York and sought to apply transatlantic techniques to the Scottish seat of Midlothian. Gladstone, displaying great energy and stamina, spoke at many public meetings and defeated Disraeli in the General Election of 1880 (which Disraeli had called and expected to win). It was a historic comeback.
And now look at Nigel Farage. As the leader of UKIP he had triumphed in taking his party from the derided "Looneys, fruitcakes and closet racists" (David Cameron) to a threat that compelled Cameron to offer a referendum on the EU--which he lost. Farage then stood down from the leadership. His work was done, and he had had enough of the burdens of office. After meetings with Donald Trump, whom he much admires, he settled down to hosting a radio chat show. He retained the undying hatred of the Establishment, and when Theresa May was asked if he would be receiving any honours in the forthcoming list, she answered only with trills of girlish laughter. That was his position until very lately.
What has changed is the Chequers plan, the Government's Brexit policy. It is very widely seen as a sell-out, BRINO, Remain In All But Name. Farage now announces his intention to appear in public meetings up and down the country, which will be massively attended—he is very popular—and well covered in the media. What with Gladstone and Trump and their inspirational examples, Farage will make immense efforts to bring down May's Government. We'll know in the next couple of months if he's succeeded.
Ralph Berry writes from England.