Farage Hit by Milkshake as He Kicks Off UK Election Campaign

(Bloomberg) -- Brexit architect Nigel Farage launched his campaign to win the parliamentary seat of Clacton in a carnival-like atmosphere, drawing hundreds of people to the Essex seafront with his promise to upend the UK political order. But not everything went the newly-appointed Reform UK leader’s way.

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The populist right-winger was drenched by what appeared to be a milkshake hurled over him from a McDonald’s cup by a member of the public as he emerged from a pub in the town on the east coast of England. Footage showed him wiping a cream-colored liquid from his brow, and images captured the moment a young woman appeared to douse him with the beverage. It was a throwback to the moment he was covered in milkshake after delivering a speech while campaigning for the European elections in Newcastle in 2019.

Earlier, crowds had jostled for position on balconies, staircases and bridges on Clacton pier to get a glimpse of Farage as if he were a rock star. Long a thorn in the side of the governing Conservative Party, Farage had announced his eighth attempt to win a seat in the UK House of Commons late on Monday, dealing a savage blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s own campaign. The Tories are fearful of the damage Farage could inflict on their vote on July 4, potentially costing them seats to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which enjoys a wide lead in the polls.

“This election is effectively over, that breach of trust by the Conservatives means they’re finished, we are going to get a Labour government whether you like it or not,” Farage told the crowd gathered near a ferris wheel, referring to the Tory failure to get immigration down. “The question is, who is going to be the voice of opposition,” he said, adding: “I want Reform UK to be in Parliament, and I promise you I’ll liven it up a lot from what it currently is.”

Farage has vowed to lead Reform for the next five years, with his main goal being to challenge Starmer at the next general election, due by 2029. On Monday, he proclaimed the current election campaign — pitting two technocrats against each other in the form of Sunak and Starmer — as the “dullest” of his lifetime, and said it needed “gingering up.”

The launch in Clacton on Tuesday certainly did that, attracting a scrum of visiting press, and excited cheering by the gathered crowds as Farage bantered with them about immigration, whether women can have penises, and other examples of what he called “woke PC nonsense.”

After his rally, Farage held court with journalists over a pint in a Wetherspoon pub. It was emerging from there that he had the drink thrown over him. While Essex Police later arrested a woman over the incident, Farage himself made light of it, posting a video of himself on X clutching a McDonald’s cup and saying “my milkshake brings all the people to the rally,” a play on the words of a hit by US singer Kelis.

Farage has previously tried seven times to win a Parliamentary seat, with his bids always ending in failure. The closest he’s come to victory came in 2015 general election, when he took 32.4% of the vote in South Thanet on the coast of Kent, finishing less than 6 percentage points behind the Tory winner.

But one of his previous parties — the UK Independence Party — did manage to win in Clacton in the 2015 general election, when UKIP secured 3.8 million votes nationwide. And in another favorable portent for Farage, polling by Survation in January suggested he would win in Clacton if he stood.

If an unscientific poll by Bloomberg is anything to go by, Farage has a shot. Nine out of 14 residents approached by Bloomberg in Clacton on Tuesday said they were planning to vote for Farage — including three who had come out specifically to see the Reform UK leader speak. The other five either weren’t sure, or didn’t intend to vote. As for the key concerns those voters spoke about, immigration came up far the most.

One attendee at the rally, Leslie Smith, described immigration as the “biggest issue” of the election campaign and that she planned to vote for Farage because he seemed a “straight talker.”

“We can’t go on like we are, we need to get the numbers down,” Smith said. Andy Johnson, another Clacton resident, concurred, saying he’d always voted Conservative but was planning to switch to Farage because the governing party had lost the will to stop arrivals coming across the Channel on small boats.

While Sunak’s party has passed legislation designed to enable the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda with no right of return, deportation flights have yet to take off, and the numbers of migrants arriving in small boats from France has touched record levels this year.

“It’s people who come here illegally on a boat and then live off the back of the taxpayer,” Johnson said. “I don’t mind people who come here legally and work hard, but that’s the issue. Nigel is the one to sort that out.”

(Updates with comments from Clacton residents starting in 10th paragraph.)

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