On an unseasonably chilly May afternoon, Nigel Farage looks out at the rows of empty seats at Fylde AFC, a Lancashire football club, the site of the latest of his Brexit Party rallies (eight and counting).
He knows the stands will soon be filled with over 1,600 paying punters who will come to cheer, to jeer and to hear not only from the man himself – now nothing short of a political folk hero – but a full slate of Brexit Party candidates, including Ann Widdecombe, a Tory of five decades’ standing.
Mr Farage is pleased with his latest signing. Chuckling, he reflects to me on some of the lessons he’s learnt during his shortish sabbatical from the political fray: “I’ve spent a lot of time in America recently. They’re always a few years ahead of us over there. It’s certainly taught me that politics should be far less drab.”
The still nascent Brexit Party may be many things, but drab it is not. I have written before about the quality of its branding and social media output, the shrewdness of its operation, the foresight of its strategy. But what became clearer to me, standing in that football stadium, is the pedigree of its politics.
I’ve never been to a Trump rally – but I imagine, from everything I’ve seen and heard – that what I experienced on the Fylde wasn’t a million miles away.