St Bride's: News

Mr Farage sets aside modern politics for the legacy to Europe after the Great War

farage.jpgHe has all the appearance of a bon viveur. He has presence and there seems almost to be a touch of flamboyancy about him.  There he is standing in front of the high altar, suitably emblazoned in colourful purple lighting, on the spot where the preacher delivers a sermon.  But this is no sermon and the speaker is no preacher.

Nigel Paul Farage is a British politician and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).   I apologise to my readers for writing this last sentence because they might well accuse me of undermining their intelligence, because Mr Farage has become the top Icon in Europe.  He is instantly recognised in Brussels or Birmingham, Chorley or Chelmsford, Rotherham or Reading.  Con Coughlin who covers war and defence for the Daily Telegraph was right when he stood up in the journalists' church of St Bride for the annual Tom Olsen lecture to introduce Mr Farage by stating that the UKIP leader needed no introduction.

At this point, Mr Farage jumped to his feet and for once set politics aside (well for 95per cent of his time) as he took up the slogan We will remember them: the effects of the Great War and the legacy to contemporary Europe.

One forms the impression that Mr Farage becomes particularly passionate on whatever subject he talks about, whether it is school playgrounds, his local boozer or the Townswomen's Guild.  But the war to end all wars is a poignant topic about which Mr Farage proved to us over and over again that events of 1914-18 are closer to him than possibly even the future of modern Europe.

He was apparently only four years of age when he became interested in the Great War, as he stood with his family on a sun-baked Whitstable beach, just across the English Channel from the battle grounds. About four years later, he recalled, he chatted to his grandfather about the war and was promptly told: 'We don't talk about that.'  But he wanted to. He wanted to gain an insight into what actually went on in those dark days just across the water.

Although his fascination continued, it was not until 1986 that he made his first visit to the western front and stood at the thousands of gravestones where the fallen are buried. And he described to the packed church his feelings at the Menin Gate built in memory of the former British Empire and its allies who died in the Ypres Salient, and where buglers play the Last Post all 365 days of the year.

Mr Farage declared that to this day, there remains an endless negativity about World War I and he went on to defend the British Army Generals for their actions during the conflict. 'After all,' he said, 'they were only doing what politicians were telling them to do.' And the Armistice?  That was a terrible mistake he claimed. 'The Germans should have been beaten completely.'  After leaving us with no doubts about his deep feelings about the war and the tragic and needless loss of life for so many, he turned to modern times.

Since the fighting ended, mistakes about the shape and format of Europe have been made, he declared, including the problems facing the Balkans where comparatively small communities were formed under the title of Yugoslavia.

And what of the future through the eyes of Mr Farage?  'What we need is a solid state of nations with full democracy,' he told his enthralled audience. 'What we never want to see is a Europe of disharmony,' he concluded.

Whatever one's politics or feelings for Mr Farage, he comes across as someone who might go places. The thunderous applause he received at the end of another great night for this church demonstrated the feelings of everyone present.

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