Nigel Farage not dealing with ‘real world’ of politics, Tory ex-minister says

Nigel Farage does not understand the “real world” of politics, and has been likened to a “pub bore” over his claims the West provoked Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Reform UK leader claimed “we provoked this war” in a BBC Panorama interview, while drawing a link between Nato and European Union expansion in recent decades and the conflict in eastern Europe.

Ben Wallace, the Conservative former defence secretary, is the latest senior political figure to have criticised Mr Farage’s comments.

General Election campaign 2024
BBC handout photo of Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, appearing during a BBC General Election interview Panorama special (BBC/PA)

“I think Nigel Farage is a bit like that pub bore we have all met at the end of the bar who often says if ‘I was running the country’ and presents very simplistic answers to actually I am afraid in the 21st century complex problems,” Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“It is not that easy to govern a country but also to find international solutions to problems.”

Mr Wallace added: “If he became prime minister tomorrow morning, what is his solution to dealing with a President Putin that he alleges he admires?

“A man who remember was involved in the murder of a British citizen Dawn Sturgess with deployment of nerve agent in Salisbury.

“Is his answer to that we provoked him? He is going to have to deal with the real world.”

Appearing on the Panorama Interviews on BBC One on Friday, Mr Farage faced questions about his opinion of Mr Putin.

He replied: “I said I disliked him as a person, but I admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia.”

Mr Putin has served continuously as either Russian president or prime minister since 1999, with elections which have been described as “rigged”.

Mr Farage, a former member of the European Parliament, also said: “Right, I’ll tell you what you don’t know, I stood up in the European Parliament in 2014 and I said, and I quote, ‘there will be a war in Ukraine’.

“Why did I say that?

“It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, ‘they’re coming for us again’ and to go to war.”

Mr Farage went on to say he had been making similar comments “since the 1990s, ever since the fall of the (Berlin) Wall” and added: “Hang on a second, we provoked this war.

“It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault – he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly also criticised Mr Farage’s comments, writing on X, formerly Twitter: “Just Farage echoing Putin’s vile justification for the brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

Labour shadow defence secretary John Healy said Mr Farage would “rather lick Vladimir Putin’s boots than stand up for the people of Ukraine”.

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood told the Daily Telegraph that “Churchill will be turning in his grave” over the remarks.

A row has also broken out in Plymouth Moor View, where Conservative candidate and veterans minister Johnny Mercer accused his Labour rival, Fred Thomas, of “bloating” his military service.

D-Day 80th anniversary
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer attends the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, hosted by the Ministry of Defence on Southsea Common in Portsmouth, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The veterans minister outlined his concerns on the social media website X, writing: “Nobody who serves in Special Forces Support Group claims they are Special Forces.”

Mr Mercer added: “He himself boasted of serving in combat missions. It is strange that he now cannot talk about it.”

A Labour spokesperson told the PA news agency that Mr Thomas is a “decorated ex-Royal Marine” who “served for seven years, rising to the rank of captain”.

They added: “Due to the highly sensitive and recent nature of his role, Thomas remains unable to discuss much of his service.”

Mr Thomas said: “I am proud of having served my country for seven years, including overseas on operations.

“I remain unable to discuss much of my service, something which Johnny Mercer, as a former defence minister, is keenly aware of.”