Voices: With his Putin comments, Nigel Farage has reminded us who he really is

It’s strange that we spend so much time talking about Nigel Farage. The one-time leader of Ukip and full-time agent provocateur has stood for election as an MP seven times, and successfully managed to become an MP precisely zero times. If you repeatedly reject somebody for a job and then they show up to work anyway, you don’t patiently listen to him rant about his ideas on how to run the company – you lock the doors and call security.

Unfortunately, gluttons for punishment that we are here in the UK, we’re addicted to Nigel and his poorly thought out, scribbled-on-a-Wetherspoons-napkin approach to policy. And boy oh boy, did he drop a doozy on us yesterday, as he used his undeserved time in our country’s media spotlight to seemingly justify Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I stood up in the European parliament in 2014 and I said, and I quote, ‘there will be a war in Ukraine’,” said the Reform UK leader, speaking to Nick Robinson on a special election BBC Panorama show. “Why did I say that? It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say ‘they’re coming for us again’ and to go to war.”

Farage has been widely criticised for his remarks, with foreign secretary James Cleverly accusing him of “echoing Putin’s vile justification for the brutal invasion of Ukraine”, and John Healy, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, branding him a “Putin apologist”. Rishi Sunak has rightly said that Farage’s “appeasement” of the Russian leader only plays into his hands, and “is dangerous for Britain’s security”.

The comments are disgusting, but isn’t that par for the course at this point? Everything that comes out of Farage’s mouth seems to be said with the aim of provocation first, and coherent policy a distant second. He’s a radio shock jockey who somehow made his way into politics. Every outrageous statement he makes on this campaign trail should be accompanied by the sound of a flushing toilet and an advert for car insurance.

What we should really worry about is the fact that we have now reached a point in this country where a politician defending the actions of a violent despot with designs against the West is not immediately disqualifying. Have our standards for public discourse really sunk so low? Do we really expect so little from our politicians?

Ten years ago, Ed Miliband was sunk by a picture of him making a funny face while eating a bacon sandwich – fast forward to today, and the leader of a major party can apparently go on television and talk about how he thinks the man who regularly threatens to nuke us is just misunderstood. Hell, it’ll probably give him a bump in the polls.

Even more concerning is the fact that Farage’s comments are perfectly in line with the views of a not-insignificant proportion of prominent far-right personalities, not just here in the UK but throughout the West – and particularly in the US, where Farage was bound before taking on the leadership of Reform.

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson made headlines a few months ago for a fawning two-hour interview of the Russian leader which he released on Twitter/X. Republican lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene has claimed that Ukraine has a “Nazi army”, echoing the Russian leader’s justification for the invasion. Do we even need to mention Trump, who has called Putin a “genius” for launching his invasion, and said he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to any Nato country that doesn’t pay its dues?

How much longer are we going to tolerate unfettered propagandising on the part of our country’s enemies in the name of some warped, backwards ideal of free speech? What will it take for us recognise that our democracy is being undermined when it’s happening right in our face? I’d say a Tory-style wipeout for Reform at the upcoming election, but if there’s one thing we can be sure about with Farage, it’s that losing clearly doesn’t seem to deter him.

With this latest stunt, Nigel Farage has show us exactly the kind of person he is – and exactly what type of leader he would be. If he cannot be trusted to identify a clear and present danger to the UK, then how can he be trusted with any kind of political office?

From pushing for the economic disaster of Brexit, to his campaign of suspicion and agitation against some of our most vulnerable residents, Nigel Farage has been a stain on our country’s politics for over three decades. He is an irrelevance, disguised as a man of the people – it’s time we recognised that.