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How did Nigel Farage become so powerful?

Farage is the cat that got the cream this week.

Belgium Britain EU Source: AP/Press Association Images

ALL WEEK, YOU will have seen his face.

On TV, in papers and on the web, Nigel Farage is ubiquitous, it seems. Having seen his dream of an EU without Britain become a reality, Farage is the cat that got the cream.

His abrasive, sardonic contributions to Tuesday’s plenary session in the European Parliament – during which he told MEPs none of them “had ever done a real job” – ruffled the feathers of members of parliament who booed him.

It is a far cry from a year ago when Farage resigned as leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), before being convinced to stay on.

UKIP had taken a single seat in the UK general election and had been completely marginalised after a strong European and local election result a year previously.

EU referendum Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

That resignation came on the back of Farage losing his race in the general election, the seventh time he has failed to be elected to the House of Commons in six different constituencies.

While many who voted leave did so for an array of concerns to do with the anti-democratic nature of the EU, its size and bureaucracy, Farage managed to wrest the narrative away from those issues and bring it to his main focus: immigration.

Dog whistle

Source: LBC/YouTube

The vote to leave the European Union is a culmination of 25 years of campaigning for the leader of UKIP.

A surge in support for Farage’s anti-immigration, anti-establishment party helped force Cameron into calling the referendum three years ago. The man who had said he would “be concerned” if a group of Romanians moved next door to him proved such an attraction to many Eurosceptic MPs that Cameron was forced to head him off.

It was a political gamble which backfired and has made Farage an international political figure.

But the 17-year MEP was widely condemned by fellow members of the Brexit camp for his relentless focus on how leaving the EU would help cut levels of immigration to Britain.

He faced particular criticism over a campaign poster of queueing refugees with the headline “Breaking Point” unveiled on the same day as the murder of pro-EU Labour lawmaker Jo Cox. It was also compared to a Nazi propaganda film.

Charisma

Belgium Britain EU Source: AP/Press Association Images

The charismatic 53-year-old, who once compared ex-European Council president Herman Van Rompuy to a “damp rag”, led UKIP to victory in 2014′s European elections and third place in opinion polls before last May’s vote.

Born in 1964 to an affluent family in Kent, southeast England, his father was a stockbroker and an alcoholic and his parents divorced when he was five.

He was educated at one of England’s top private schools, Dulwich College, where he says his headmaster saw him as “bloody-minded and difficult”.

Rather than attending university, he followed his father into the City of London, where he says that 12-hour boozy lunches were the norm.

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Having supported the Conservatives since his schooldays, he joined UKIP in 1993 as a founder member and was elected to the European Parliament in 1999, aged 35.

Farage became UKIP’s leader in 2006 before standing down in 2009 and then being re-elected the following year, when UKIP’s ascent really began.

He has survived a string of personal misfortunes – a serious car accident, testicular cancer and a plane crash as he was campaigning during the 2010 general election.

Despite his scepticism on the European Union, Farage is married to a German woman and has four children.

Man of the people

EU referendum Source: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Though privately-educated, a former commodities trader and a politician since he was 35, Farage has an uncanny ability to be seen as a “man of the people”.

A TNS survey in January found almost half think that Nigel Farage is “just saying what people think” (43% agree vs 29% disagree).

It is that ability which effectively pushed Cameron to call the referendum, something Farage takes “100% credit for”.

The next step is for Farage, and UKIP, to take more than one seat in parliament.

Read: “Why are you here?” – An EU chief wasn’t impressed with Nigel Farage today

Read: Four ways the UK could possibly stay in the EU

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