Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, on June 20, 2024, in Blackpool, northwest England.

With its Ferris wheel, its pier and its accompanying wobbly planks and its town center overrun by second-hand stores, Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, United Kingdom, is one of those quintessentially British coastal towns with an old-fashioned, slightly depressing atmosphere. It was a popular tourist destination until the 1970s and the advent of low-cost Mediterranean travel. Since then, its appeal has faded.

Unemployment in this town with a population of 53,000 is one of the highest in the UK (46.8% of over-16s), partly due to health reasons, but also because work here is often seasonal, and the median age of the population is 50. It is ranked among the poorest 1% in England. You only need to look at the number of people using walkers or scooters for disabled people to gauge the alarming physical condition of its residents.

Nigel Farage, the 60-year-old leader of the right-wing populist party Reform UK has set his sights on this constituency some 100 kilometers north of London. Here, in the forthcoming general election on July 4, he is seeking, for the eighth time, to be elected as an MP in the House of Commons. Despite his repeated failures, he is considered one of the most influential British politicians of his generation – it was his campaign against Brussels that led to the 2016 Brexit referendum. This master communicator is hoping to capitalize on the British public’s disenchantment with the Conservatives, who after 14 years in power are headed for a heavy defeat, according to the polls.

“Labour has already won” the election, he said, but Reform UK will be “the real opposition” in the House of Commons. Farage began his career as a City broker before being elected as a member of the European Parliament, spending 20 years in that position bashing Brussels. He has made anti-migrant rhetoric his trademark. He advocates taxing companies employing non-British workers and sending people crossing the Channel in small boats back to France – without explaining how. Farage has found in Clacton-on-Sea, which until now has been represented by a Conservative politician, rather favorable ground.

‘Stop small boats’

“I have made up my mind, I will vote for Reform UK. I have always voted Tory but Nigel Farage is very focused on migration, I hope he will stop the boats,” said Pam Cook, 73, an affable grandmother resting on her walker, as she waited for her daughter who has an appointment at the local job center on Friday, June 28. “I am not racist but I am against people coming illegally in this country and getting more than me with my pension,” the woman said, who has just moved to Clacton after living for nearly 50 years in Basildon, East London. “I like this place a lot, it is quiet, no drug problems like in Basildon,” said Cook.

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