Nigel Farage could hold the keys to 10 Downing Street next month but if you are seeking analysis of, or practical solutions to, the problems currently facing the UK, the Ukip leader’s book, The Purple Revolution: The Year That Changed Everything, will be a crushing disappointment.
This hugely political book homes in instead, predictably, on Farage’s greatest asset – his personality. He wants readers to look beyond the ‘fag and pint glass’ image and ditch any preconceptions that he is leading a rabble of “closet racists” and “loons”. He yearns instead to be seen as a revolutionary shaking the Westminster establishment to its core, and, in particular, as someone to whom the average man on the street can relate.
Farage the man was forged not in the grand lecture halls of Oxford or Cambridge but in the City of London. After leaving Dulwich College at 18, he worked for a metals trading business. He admits that he found the cut and thrust of 1980s London intoxicating.
“I love a gamble, I love stacking up the odds, and it has only been through taking enormous risks that the party and I have got to where we are today,” he says.
The nature of taking risks, as Farage knows well, means that they can backfire. He recalls the time he lost a seven-figure sum in the space of a morning and headed out to drown his sorrows at a local pub.
“Where do you think you’re going?’’ his boss yelled.
“Out to lunch,” Farage replied, “but if you want me to take my jacket off again and stay put, I can start losing the same amount this afternoon, if you’d rather.’’
He candidly recalls the City culture in the 1980s and 1990s, with bankers taking huge bets with other people’s money without fear of regulatory reprisal.
“When it was busy, you worked hard; when it wasn’t, you went for lunch,” he says. “It was alcoholic like you cannot believe and we were pretty amateur. There were terrible cock-ups in the afternoon as a result: contracts bought instead of sold, some priced wrongly.”
Much of the book follows a similar tack, focusing on entertaining but largely trivial issues. Farage recalls, for example, telling his friend to light him a cigarette immediately after his plane had crashed. “Not a great idea, so close to a pool of aviation fuel,” he says.
Some would argue such content reflects Farage himself: lots of stories and entertainment – but little of substance.
In the only significant new development, the Ukip leader provides insight on the forthcoming plebiscite.
“This is the most unpredictable election for 100 years,” he says. “Ukip has upset the political apple cart and I am constantly being asked how many seats we can win in May. My public answer mirrors my private view: I just don’t know, and no one else has a clue either.”
Farage rules out a formal coalition with the Conservatives and instead proposes a “deal” whereby Ukip would back key votes, such as the Budget, in return for a 2015 EU referendum.
“I want a full and fair referendum to be held in 2015 to allow Britons to vote on being in or out of the European Union,” he says. “There would be no wiggle room for ‘renegotiation’ down the line.”
If you want a light read during your summer holiday (and do not mind seeing Farage’s face every day), The Purple Revolution is worth packing in your suitcase. But if you want substance, analysis or new ideas, look elsewhere.