Nigel Farage: "Man in the pub" who drove Britain's Brexit debate

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage has survived being run over, testicular cancer and a plane crash, as well as some vicious criticism by the British media and politicians.

One of the most flamboyant characters in British politics resigned as UKIP leader in May 2015 after he narrowly failed to win a seat in parliament. He returned as leader days later after a petition from thousands of disappointed UKIP members.

Announcing his resignation again on Monday, Farage insisted he would not repeat that comeback, saying Britain's vote to leave the European Union in last month's referendum "means that my political ambition has been achieved."

The 52-year-old likes supporters to see him as a jovial, ordinary "man in the pub" and "anti-politician."

He was often pictured grinning at photographers while clutching a pint of "bitter" beer, sometimes in the Westminster Arms pub, close to Britain's parliament, but far enough away to reflect his status as a self-styled political outsider.

In his referendum campaigning Farage seized upon the reluctance from Britain's two largest parties - the Conservatives and Labour - to engage in any meaningful discussion of communities affected by immigration.

His shunning by right-wing eurosceptics in the ruling Conservatives only enhanced the anti-establishment image of a man who is a cult hero to many UKIP members.

It was Farage's description of Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, as having "the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk" while dismissing Belgium as a "non-country" that brought him to most Europeans' attention in 2010.

Nigel Paul Farage (pronounced to rhyme with carriage) was born in the southern English county of Kent, the son of an alcoholic stockbroker who left Farage's mother when he was just 5 years old.

After attending the prestigious private school Dulwich College, Farage eschewed university when he reached 18, choosing instead to follow his father into the City as a commodities trader.

In his early 20s he experienced his first brush with death when he was knocked down by a car after a drunken night in the pub where he had been arguing about British-Irish relations.

He survived, only to be diagnosed with testicular cancer shortly afterwards. But he overcame the illness - he has reportedly expressed "gratitude to evolution" for being provided with a spare - and went on to marry twice and father four children.

His first dabble with politics came with the Conservative Party, but he left to become one of the founding members of UKIP when Britain signed the 1992 Maastricht treaty, which paved the way for greater political union and the euro currency.

Charismatic and articulate, Farage quickly climbed the party ladder, becoming a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 1999 and party leader in 2006.

He resigned for a brief spell in 2009 to fight a seat in the 2010 general election, an attempt which failed as UKIP polled just 3 per cent. It was during campaigning that he survived a plane crash with minor injuries.

The UKIP leader and his party have sailed apparently unscathed through several scandals about MEPs' expenses, accusations of racism and sexism, infighting, and Farage's alleged affairs.

In 2013 Marta Andreasen, then the party's only female MEP, defected to the Conservatives, accusing Farage of being "anti-women" and a "Stalinist dictator".

Another ex-UKIP MEP, Nikki Sinclair, stood up in the European Parliament to accuse Farage of using taxpayers' money to fund jobs for both his German wife and a woman she said was his former mistress.

But the mud flung at Farage failed to halt the rise of UKIP to become Britain's third-largest party in a general election in May 2015, winning 13 per cent of the votes. His apparent invincibility had led one BBC reporter to dub him "non-stick Nigel."

Following the Brexit referendum, Farage used his speech in the European Parliament to gloat over his success.

"Isn't it funny? You know, when I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me," he told fellow MEPs.

"Well, I have to say, you're not laughing now, are you?"

Last update: Mon, 04/07/2016 - 14:56

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