On Sunday night, Kevin Bishop transforms himself into one of British politics’ most recognisable figures in BBC2 comedy Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back. Here, Bishop and co-writer Alan Connor imagine a week in the life of the newly civilian Farage during his brief spell of retirement…
Since leaving politics, I start my week with a visit to a Turkish bath. I got into them during the 2015 election campaign. My team hired an “image consultant” to look at my television appearances.
She had two observations: One: inspirational. Two: perspirational. I was sweating like a pig at the Melton Mowbray country fair. So I had to either: (a) pack in the booze or (b) use steam rooms to open up the old pores. No-brainer.
Seriously, though: in my political days, I kept to very firm rules about daytime drinking. If I was doing a broadcast interview, I always restricted myself beforehand to no more than five pints of beer.
Lunch in my local with Des Lynam. The type of lunch that was referred to around Ukip HQ as a “PFL”. The “P” stands for “Proper” and I don’t expect I’m allowed to tell you what the “F” stands for in an online TV listings magazine! (But here’s a little clue for you: it’s certainly not “Fennel”.)
When it comes to the pulse — not that kind of pulse, we dine on Barnsley chops, not lentils, and if I want to find some rabbit food, I know where the pet shop is! — when, as I say, it comes to the pulse, Des’s finger is most assuredly still on it. “Farage’s lips are sealed”, I assure him after some eye-watering tales of players’ post-match badinage. Boys will be boys, and quite right too.
Des wrote us a hilarious and scathing version of “Send in the Clowns” a couple of years back. I remain convinced that it would have topped the hit parade, if it hadn’t been for that unpleasantness with Stephen Sondheim’s lawyers which prevented us from releasing or even recording it. If I had ever become prime minister, Des would have been given a knighthood for services to proper broadcasting. I mean, think about it. Who have we got now? Clare Balding. What a world.
Then a very pleasant evening going through my effects from Ukip HQ, delivered in crates to Chateau Farage in Kent. I’m keeping one piece of Eurocratic nonsense as a little memento: a two-thousand page document. I’ll never forget the first day I saw it. Its title? “Progress Towards The Paperless Office”. Even I was absolutely speechless… for about two and a half seconds.
I’m tipped off about some private polling: Diane is the favourite to take over at Ukip, providing some much-needed stability. Unlike at the FA, where, Des whispers, Sam Allardice is likely to be out after only two months! No staying power, that one.
The phone rings. Not, as I suspected, a call to see whether they’re going to try and fob me off with a lordship. I can’t quite see it, can you? A lifetime fighting an unelected chamber, and then I walk into the Lords wearing half a stoat!?
No, there’s no point in trying to twist my arm or silence me: you won’t be seeing Lord Farage of Thanet any time soon.
Or Lord Farage of Maidstone and the Weald.
Or even Lord Farage of Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Simply not going to happen.
Actually, the call is from something called “White Water”, which the girl from the programme says is “an attempt to find Britain’s top celebrity canoeist”. To be perfectly honest, if I’d accepted their offer to spend two weeks paddling down the Somme with Robert Kilroy Silk, I’m not sure I would have been responsible for my actions.
Plus the money wasn’t right.
Back to the Turkish baths. I’m addicted! And despite what the mainstream media would have you believe, I am very passionate about the culture of the Turks. The good Turks, I mean.
Exhibit A: Turkish baths. Exhibit B: Turkish Delight with the Queen’s Speech at Christmas — and of course a Turkish coffee or three! (I think I’m right in saying that’s the one with a shot of something interesting to liven it up. Or perhaps I’m thinking of Irish coffee? Anyway, you take my point.)
Then an afternoon getting reacquainted with my VHS copy of The Great Escape. I think I’m allowed a treat in my political retirement, having saved my mother country from perpetual enslavement to the Euro-Soviet!
Britain seems to have forgotten how to make proper films: it’s all dreary knife crime and “chick flicks” about hairdos and breast-feeding. Sorry, but that kind of drivel bores Nigel Farage stupid.
That said, I nod off around the point where RAF Sqn Ldr Roger Bartlett is brought into the camp. Now, I hasten to add: this doesn’t reflect on Richard Attenborough’s spell-binding performance; it’s more to do with having chosen for my lunch a few pints of Culloden and one and a half packets of Mini Cheddars.
Diane’s victory will be one in the eye for the Remoaning liberals who imagine Ukip couldn’t bear the idea of a woman in power. Then a journalist rings to ask whether I’m coaching Donald Trump. I dodge the question but make my feelings clear about the prospect of that histrionic hag Hillary anywhere near the Oval Office.
“When will you need it back, Sir?” It’s the lady at the dry cleaner, asking about my old Ukip suit.
“Never!” I chuckle.
“Would you be able to come to Westminster and sit outside a pub for an hour?”
“Well, what do you think!?”
It’s some little herbert from the BBC. They want to record a “trail” for my BBC2 documentary, and tell me that the Marquis of Granby is “my natural habitat”, like I’m some sort of lesser-spotted political bonobo monkey, rather than a man who single-handedly changed the course of British history for the better.
Once I’m there, a couple of pints of Finest Hour to the better, the herbert pipes up: apparently smoking and drinking are “inappropriate behaviours” for anything broadcast before the watershed.
“No problem, Sebastian,” says I, all smiles. “Just nip to Boots and get me some nicotine gum. The ten-milligram stuff. That’s the only thing that got me through all-day sessions in the Star Chamber at Brussels.”
Of course, I’ve never touched the stuff. And I certainly have never knowingly “vaped”. As soon as he’s out of sight, I spark up a Rothmans, order a pint of Dragonslayer and tell the crew to start recording. Then I foxtrot-oscared to Euston for some cheeky halves with Geoff Boycott. If they think the nation needs to be protected from seeing Nigel Farage behaving “inappropriately”, they can make their trailer using a bonobo monkey for all I care.
On the way home, Diane texts me with some surprising news. Hmm. I hope that dry cleaner is open at the weekend…
Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back is on BBC2 at 10pm on Sunday 30th October