‘Bloody awful people. My contempt for career politicians knows no bounds.
‘Have you ever been to a reception and had a drink with these people? They’re ghastly.
‘I never wanted a career in politics. I still don’t,’ says Farage, who worked in the City full-time until he became an MEP in 1999.
‘The only reason I stood is because I felt it was my duty.’
Farage cares deeply about his country. An enthusiast of military history, he has spent the best part of his adult life rallying the troops to free us from the European Union, a mission fuelled, he says, ‘by gin and adrenaline.’
For many years, the liberal establishment ridiculed him as ‘a mav-erick’, ‘a racist’ and ‘a clown’.
Today he stands as one of the most successful politicians of his generation, but he has made many sacrifices.
He has two grown-up sons Samuel, 28, and Thomas, 26, from his first marriage to former nurse Clare and two daughters, from his second 18-year marriage to German-born Kirsten, who are just 17 and 12-years-old.
‘We’ve got a very unusual surname so it does leave them a little bit vulnerable. I tell them not to engage. Ignore it. Don’t answer back. They’re not going to win, are they? It’s all so. . . so. . . ’ He fumbles for the right word. ‘Unfair.’
Where’s the swagger? Where’s the mischievous, bug-eyed glee? ‘I’m OK,’ he says. But he doesn’t seem OK.
Farage falls silent. His soulfulness is unexpected.
Where’s the swagger? Where’s the mischievous, bug-eyed glee?
‘I’m OK,’ he says. But he doesn’t seem OK. Today, he is red-eyed and his voice is raspy. A few days before we meet he was in bed with the flu. It laid him low for 48 hours, which, I imagine, made him feel pretty sorry for himself.
‘Self-pity is what big boozers get, that maudlin, what-have-I-done-with-my-life feeling the morning after,’ he says. ‘I don’t drink that much any more — not compared to what I used to drink.’
Which, by all accounts, was enough to float a small fleet of ships. He chain-smoked, too. There’s an ashtray overflowing with butts on a utilitarian bistro table outside his office, but he doesn’t light up once during my time with him.
‘As you get older you do change,’ he says. ‘When I look back, I weigh everything up and think, “If I had the same choices would I do it again?” Of course I would.
‘Does that mean there aren’t one or two regrets along the way? Of course there are. My family — my kids could have had a bit more of me.’
It was revealed earlier this year that Farage and his wife Grianne Hayes were living ‘separate lives’ (pictured)
Which brings us to the elephant in the room: his marriage. Nigel describes himself as, ‘53, separated and skint’ since his wife Kirsten revealed they were living ‘separate lives’ earlier this year.
Her announcement followed reports he was sharing his Chelsea pad with a 37-year-old former waitress Laure Ferrari, now the executive director of a think-tank.
He dismissed rumours of affairs as ‘crackers’ until a kiss-and-tell from his one-time adviser Annabelle Fuller was published. It included a handwritten note from Nigel that ended with the words, ‘I only wish that I had been free for you. With all my heart and body Love Nigel.’
‘There are private things in life that should stay private,’ he says. ‘One thing I’ve learned in this game is don’t trust anybody. They’ll all let you down in the end. It’s just money, isn’t it? People want to make money out of you.
Ms Hayes announcement followed reports he was sharing his Chelsea pad with a 37-year-old former waitress Laure Ferrari, now the executive director of a think-tank (pictured)
‘When you’ve lived on the road out of a suitcase, year after year, fuelled by gin and adrenaline all sorts of things happen.
‘It’s part and parcel of not living a settled life. It’s abnormal in every sense. You’re living a parallel life apart from your family.
‘I stopped this helter-skelter non-thinking life last summer. [When he resigned as leader of UKIP to ‘take back my life’.] It’s been a year when I’ve had to re-adjust things a bit.’
Nigel became a founding member of UKIP in 1993. Within four years his first marriage had ended.
Recent reports claim Nigel has re-mortgaged the £600,000 marital home in Kent to fund a separate house nearby for his wife and younger children.
‘There’s no money in politics, particularly doing it the way I’ve done it — 20 years of spending more than you earn,’ he says. ‘I have big expenses — lots of kids to pay for and things like that.’ Today, he sees his daughters, ‘a bit’.
‘Not as much as I’d like,’ he admits. ‘But they have their own lives. They do their own thing. Family break-ups are never good. Leaving my children [when his first marriage ended] was very difficult — very, very difficult. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I spoke to my eldest son last night. I speak to them most days. I want to be involved.
‘But things in relationships often run their course and what can you do? Do you do what millions of people do and pretend it’s all OK for the rest of your life?
‘There’s a lot of people doing that.’ He leans forward across his desk to whisper: ‘They’re miserable too, aren’t they?’’
Nigel Farage discussed his relationship with Ms Hayes and explains that their relationship ‘ran it’s course’ (pictured at the debate on the progress of the Brexit talks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France)
Miserable too? Is he miserable? ‘There’s always a sadness if a very, very big series of chapters of your life comes to an end. I feel guilt over any hurt I’ve caused. But whatever has happened in the past has happened.
‘I think to myself sometimes, “What have I done well? What have I done badly?” I’ve never gone out of my way to hurt people.
‘I think I’ve just been pretty obsessed fighting this cause to the detriment of almost everything else. For the past ten years, it’s been a seven-day-a-week obsession and everything else has fallen into second place.’
Farage never envisaged a career in politics. Educated at the all-boys Dulwich College in South London, he nurtured a passion for cricket and all things military, so set his sights on the Army until Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 and he decided to enter the City.
‘It was an excessive lifestyle with excessive people and a very, very male dominated world,’ he says. ‘The speculators were the most lunatic bunch of people I’ve ever met. You can guess who I was attracted to.’
He has always belonged to the work hard, play hard school. He is, he says, ‘pretty fatalistic about life.’
The former UKIP leader also openly spoke about his battle with testicular and almost being killed when he was hit by a car at 21
At 21, he was almost killed after being hit by a car, suffering injuries to his head and his leg, which was so badly broken it almost had to be amputated. He was in hospital for four months, in plaster for 11 months and continues to suffer with tinnitus from his head injury.
‘It’s a bloody nuisance,’ he says. ‘But I met Clare [who went on to become his first wife] who was working on the ward.’
Within a year, however, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
‘It started with a blinding pain from the kidney down the left side on Boxing Day 1986,’ he says. ‘I was misdiagnosed and messed about so much you wouldn’t believe it.
‘After weeks and weeks of going back to the outpatient’s clinic, I was getting iller and iller. My left testicle was the size of a lemon and rock hard. I went to get a second opinion and was operated on the next morning.
‘Afterwards they said: “We’re sorry we weren’t able to get to you earlier, your blood count is off the scale. You will have secondary cancers in the stomach and lungs.”
‘It was pretty bloody bleak. I had so much I wanted to do, so much I was sure I was going to achieve. I thought this was going to be it.
‘I was very, very angry. I felt: “I’ve survived the bloody road crash that would have killed 99 out of 100 people now the NHS have probably killed me.” I remember when this owl-like man, lovely man — an oncologist — poked his head round the door with the results from the CAT scan. I’ve got the Channel 4 racing on, I’ve got an early mobile phone so I can ring the bookmakers and get the bets on, I’ve got a whisky and water and a fag on the go.
‘I took the attitude, “Sod it, just get on with it.” He told me the cancer hadn’t spread. Then he said, “Some of my patients after a scare like this drink carrot juice for the rest of their lives. Others don’t. I can see you’re going to be in the latter category.”’
Within a year Nigel had married Clare. Their sons, Samuel and Thomas soon followed, while his career in the City and carousing continued at a hectic pace. He would probably still be there had Prime Minister John Major’s government not signed up to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
Nigel Farage attended Millbank studios in Westminster last week (December 8) after Theresa May announced there will be no hard boarder in Ireland
‘I just had this belief we were going in absolutely the wrong direction and I couldn’t see there was really anyone much in the Establishment who was prepared to stand and fight for this country.
‘When we dropped out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism on September 16, 1992, everything I’d ranted about for two years proved to be right. Within a few months the British economy was in a better position. That gave me a tremendous sense of, maybe, I was quite good at seeing the big picture in a way that not everyone else could.’
In 1993 Nigel became a founding member of UKIP. Within four years his first marriage had ended. He met Kirsten, a City bond trader, shortly after his separation and they married in 1999.
How did people react to UKIP at the start? ‘People used to say, “Why are you doing this? Why are you damaging your business? It’s irrational. It’s crazy. Why are you going out on this bizarre limb?”
‘I’d say, “Because I don’t think anybody else is going to do it. I just have to do it. It might not be logical but I don’t just think that I’m right about this. I know that I’m right about this.”
This announcement meant that Brexit talks could then move onto trade talks (Farage pictured leaving Millbank studios)
‘For 25 years I’ve thought this is the right thing…’
Nigel’s mobile interrupts us. It is the only call he receives during this lengthy interview. Not too long ago, his phone would have been ringing off the hook.
‘I’m quite enjoying not being in the front line every day because I was there for quite a long time,’ says Nigel, who became UKIP leader in 2006 which is when, he says, ‘this stopped being an eccentric hobby’.
‘I doubt if anyone in politics in the country has ever worked as hard as I have over the past ten years. I wasn’t just giving speeches. I was raising the money. I was doing everything. It’s a hell of a burden.’
It also nearly killed him when his plane crashed during the 2010 General Election campaign.
Why keep on? Is it ego?
‘Anyone who says they don’t have an ego is talking rubbish,’ he says. ‘Ego, esteem, these things are all linked. Legacy is also important to me — very much so. I’m not bothered about being honoured. I look at the people in the House of Lords and think: “I don’t want to be judged by that bloody lot.” It’s so awful you can’t believe it.
‘I’ve never given a damn about rank. I didn’t even bother putting leader of UKIP on my business cards. If I’m recognised for having done things, that’s much more important to me than any preferment.’
Nigel will now, of course, be remembered in history as the politician who changed this country’s future.
His two sons were with him at a friend’s house in Westminster when the results of the UK referendum came in last year.
‘I think they were a bit shocked,’ he says. ‘It was just an extraordinary day. I was absolutely buzzing — just buzzing. We went out for breakfast, came back in and watched [David] Cameron resign.’
Nigel lights up as he remembers that day. And now?
‘However annoyed I am about all these concessions being put on the table [by the British government at the EU negotiations] which I think is beyond what we should be doing, and despite everything I see, and whatever I think of Blair or the Establishment who want to stop Brexit and overturn it, I actually think there is more to be optimistic than pessimistic about.
‘2016 is not just a blip but a genuine sea change in the way people are prepared to trust what they see on the telly and are told by their so-called betters.
‘The Establishment is fighting back as hard as it can, but Joe Public’s not shifting.’
The interview is reaching an end now. Nigel is flying to Brussels tomorrow so has work to attend to. A black cab driver picks me up outside his office.
‘That Nigel Farage is the only one of that lot I’d let in my cab,’ says the cabbie.
‘A copper beckoned me over the other day outside Westminster to pick up an MP. I said, ‘You’ve got to be joking. That lot don’t give a monkey’s about this country. They’re only in it for themselves. They forget we’re the ones who vote them in.’
Words from the street the political elite would do well to listen to.