Brexit campaigner Farage promises trouble after election to UK parliament

General election in Britain

By Elizabeth Piper and Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) - Brexit kingpin Nigel Farage has finally won a seat in Britain's parliament at the eighth attempt and is as determined to be as much of a "bloody nuisance" there as he was to European Union leaders as a member of the European Parliament.

The election of the 60-year-old former commodities trader by the English town of Clacton-on-Sea is the culmination of a political career forged from his loathing of the EU's project for closer union and hatred for the Conservative Party.

"My plan is to build a mass national movement over the course of the next few years and hopefully be big enough to challenge the general election properly in 2029," said Farage, hailing his victory with 46% of the vote in Clacton, a one-time popular holiday destination which voted for Farage's pro-Brexit UKIP party in 2015.

"This Labour government will be in trouble very, very quickly and we will now be targeting Labour voters, we are coming for Labour - be in no doubt about that," he said, after Labour was set for a landslide victory in Thursday's election against a humiliated Conservative Party.

Farage used his two-decade stint in the European Parliament to mock top European officials and drove Britain's Conservatives to call the 2016 referendum on European Union membership in which Britons narrowly voted to leave.

With his Reform UK party poised to do better than expected according to an exit poll, Farage now has the chance to use the British parliament as his platform and is set on making his Reform UK party Britain's true opposition.

His main line of attack will be immigration, with Reform UK pledging to limit entry, leave the European Convention on Human Rights and push migrants arriving by small boats back to France before they land on British shores.

He will also push for lower taxes and says that unless new arrivals to Britain are genuine refugees, they should not get any benefits or free health care for five years. He denies the party is racist, however, and has kicked out several candidates for reported racist, or otherwise offensive comments.

Such is the scale of the collapse of the Conservative vote that while some lawmakers and party members rule out joining forces with such a divisive figure, others question whether Farage will eventually merge with, or take over, the party.

"It's going to be necessary to find a way forward," said one former Conservative minister on condition of anonymity. "And in all frankness, I can't see a way forward that doesn't involve Mr. Nigel Farage."

Farage's victory in Clacton caps a career of taking on what he sees as the 'establishment', presenting himself as a man of the people -- those voters who feel forgotten and ignored by mainstream parties -- in the mould of his friend Donald Trump.

Asked what methods he planned on using, Farage told Reuters he felt he was pretty effective in the European Parliament, where his earlier-named Brexit Party ended up with 29 seats. "I'll tell you what, I was the bloody nuisance there," he said.

Farage was fined after comparing the then president of the European Council Belgian Herman Van Rompuy in 2010 to a "low-grade bank clerk" from a "non country".

"(I'll use) humour. Always humour," Farage said at an election event in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. "Humour works better than anything. It always has, it always will."


Farage, who from boyhood liked to challenge authority at school, had supposedly retired from politics when he stood down as leader of UKIP in 2016, shortly after the Brexit vote, saying: "I want my life back".

When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced an early poll, Farage said he would not stand, because he wanted to be more involved in the U.S. presidential election later this year and help Trump with his bid.

But in early June, that all changed. He said he had felt a "terrible sense of guilt" over letting down millions of supporters when, having a day off at home, he walked his dogs, did some fishing and "popped into the pub".

He has promised to a "political revolt" in Britain, where he said nothing worked anymore. His decision to return crushed any remaining hope for Sunak that he could turn the Conservatives' fortunes around.

Founded as the Brexit party in 2018 only to be rebranded as Reform three years later, donations dwindled and it has been largely propped up by loans from its chairman in recent years. Allegations of racism have persisted despite party denials.

Farage acknowledged that there was work to do.

"What I inherited a month ago, was a complete startup. A lot of those candidates, as I now understand it, were kind of begged for, at the last minute, because they didn't have enough people. They didn't have the resources, the manpower to vet them," he told Reuters. "So have we got a few bad apples? Yeah, we have."

"My first job... is to professionalise this party to make sure we don't get weirdos or oddballs standing for us ever again."

($1 = 0.7896 pounds)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Philippa Fletcher)