IT’S a chilly Wednesday evening in a northern town — and most people would usually be settling down to a night in front of the telly.
But a marquee at a racecourse is packed with a crowd who have parted with hard-earned cash . . . to listen to a politician.
The marquee in Sedgefield was packed with lifelong Labour and Tory supporters who have now abandoned voting habitsCredit: North News and Pictures
Nigel Farage is hailed as the saviour of Brexit in Tony Blair's former constituencyCredit: North News and Pictures
Step forward Nigel Farage, one-time Ukip boss and current MEP who is now enjoying a successful second act as the leader of the Brexit Party.
The sprightly 55-year-old bounds on stage like a rock star in Union Jack socks as the party faithful raise the chandelier-draped roof.
In their eyes, only one man can steer the country through the choppiest constitutional waters in living memory. All hail Nigel – the saviour of Brexit!
They have paid a fiver each to hear him speak for just over 15 minutes at Sedgefield racecourse in the heart of Tony Blair’s former constituency, a historically Labour stronghold that voted 58.9 per cent to 41.1 per cent in favour of Leave in the referendum.
It is the first date on a seven-night “Conference Tour” of Britain which sees him at Southport tonight.
ABANDONED VOTING HABITS
Former brewery worker Barry Lockey, 60, sums up the mood as he brandishes a Union flag he carried on the 14-day 270-mile Brexit march from Sunderland to London in March.
The dad-of-two, from Blaydon, Gateshead, said: “I come from a family of Labour-voting miners.
“My dad was a miner and Labour through and through as was his dad before him.
“And I supported Labour because my dad did. But not any more.
“Labour of old was for the people, the Labour you’ve got now is not. They are just self-serving Marxists.
“I was Labour until I met this guy on YouTube called Nigel Farage.
“I watched his videos and it opened my eyes. I didn’t have a clue about the EU before that but I realised I had been brainwashed for 40 years.
“All I want is to have a little say in how my country is run. After five years if I don’t like the Government I can vote them out.
“But the EU is a dictatorship. It’s a club, it’s not democracy.”
NIGEL 'GIVES ME HOPE'
Sue Forster, 68, of Durham, has spent her life at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Barry.
But she too has now ditched decades of voting habits inherited from her family.
The retired events manager said: “I have voted Tory all my life, my whole family has, but this betrayal of the 17.4milion people who voted Leave has forced me to change.
“At the next election, when I’m putting my cross in the box of the Brexit Party instead of the Conservatives, I will be sad.
“But I am angry too. I am angry at Theresa May — she was a Remainer and led negotiations like a Remainer and that created this mess.
“Nigel is spot-on in everything he says and he gives me hope that Brexit will still happen.”
Sprightly Nigel, 55, bound on stage like a rock star in Union Jack socksCredit: North News and Pictures
To huge cheers, Nigel Farage says: 'Tony Blair sums up why we as a nation are viewed across the rest of the world as a laughing stock'Credit: AP:Associated Press
Nigel; Farage says people 'now associate more with being Leavers or Remainers than being Labour or Conservative'Credit: North News and Pictures
Tim Martin, the founder of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice, an MEP and a prospective MP all deliver well-received speeches, but it is Nigel who the audience have turned out to see. And he doesn’t disappoint.
He gets the devoted crowd cheering and booing in equal measure with former PM Mr Blair — “The spiritual leader of Remain” — coming in for particularly loud derision.
To huge cheers, Mr Farage says: “Tony Blair sums up why this country finds itself in the crisis it is today, why we as a nation are viewed across the rest of the world as a laughing stock.
“The rest of them have done whatever they can since the referendum to frustrate, delay and obstruct.
“We are now seeing a realignment of people’s political identity. People now associate more with being Leavers or Remainers than being Labour or Conservative.”
'ALL-OUT POLITICAL WAR'
Tony Blair was replaced as local MP by his former colleague Phil Wilson in a by-election in 2007. The 60-year-old son of a colliery worker is a committed Remainer and has called for a second referendum.
Farage pledged “all-out political war” with the Labour Party and repeated his offer of a non-aggression pact with the Tories as long as Boris Johnson backs a clean-break Brexit.
He shrugged off the No10 jibe that he wasn’t a fit and proper person for Government, telling The Sun: “It is a bit rich coming from a Government which has been accused
by a Scottish court of lying to the Queen, but there you are.”
He continued: “If they want to play petty pathetic tribal games then let them. I’m not rising to the bait.
“They can throw whatever abuse they like, I don’t care. I’m not asking for anything, I’m not demanding a job in Government, I’m not even asking for a knighthood which they appear to give out two-a-penny to all sorts of people who have failed. We will fight a General Election in every seat in the country but will stand aside for MPs who are genuinely on our side . . . for the few prepared to honour the Brexit result.
“If Boris Johnson decides to go for a clean-break Brexit, his strength and my strength would be unstoppable. He could get Brexit done, beat Corbyn, be a hero — what’s not to like?”
'TAKE ON THE TORIES'
But if offered anything less, the Brexit Party will “take on the entirety of the Conservative Party”.
Farage finished his speech with a confident vow of victory: “I haven’t fought for 25 years for Brexit to see the ball dropped before we get over the line.
“Together, whatever huge battle we face against the Remain establishment, be sure in your hearts that in the end we are going to win.”
Jill, 47, a science teacher from Yorkshire, wore her Union Jack running shoes at the gatheringCredit: North News and Pictures
Ex-brewery worker Barry Lockey, 60, was a Labour supporter until he discovered Nigel Farage on YouTubeCredit: North News and Pictures
He left the tent to jubilant chants of “Nigel, Nigel, Nigel”.
The audience headed into the chilly Co Durham night, reinvigorated that their dream of Brexit can still happen despite a parliament that struggles to achieve a majority for anything, a Prime Minister on the ropes and a legal challenge heading to the Supreme Court next week.
Jill, 47, a science teacher from Yorkshire, enjoyed the show from a front row seat, with her Union Jack running shoes on show.
She wore them for every step of the Brexit March to London.
She said: “We had a vote to leave and they are ignoring it, so it’s not just about Brexit any more — it’s about democracy.
“If it wasn’t for the Brexit Party I would be worried that it wasn’t going to happen.
“But with Nigel and the party I am confident it still will. We are not going away.”
Stay-at-home mum Vici Collins, 47, of Wynyard, Teesside, who attended the talk with her Brexit–backing daughter Amelia, 15, is equally committed, but has a nagging fear the three-year delay may prove permanent.
She said: “I want to believe it will happen but I just don’t know. We are being ignored. This is supposed to be a democracy and we had a vote but they are ignoring the result.
“My family have always been Labour supporters but not now.
“Three years on, we are angry. This is such a mess. But I have faith in Nigel being able to sort it all out. He is great. This is the third time I have been to see him, and if anyone can do it then he can.”
Chartered engineer Barry Paterson, 65, of Selby, North Yorks, said: “We in the Brexit Party are the ones standing up for democracy. It’s not only about Brexit now, our whole democratic system is at stake.”
Twins Peter and John Kirby, 50, turned up together for the talk, the fourth on the Brexit Party’s “We Are Ready” nationwide tour.
Machine processor Peter, of Billingham, Teesside, said: “Parliament has spent three years trying to keep us out and they should be ashamed.
“Nigel has turned the spotlight on the corrupt lot of them and he has kept it on them.
“People are sick of it all and want Brexit to happen and hopefully, with Nigel up there at the centre of things, it can still happen.”
Machine processor Peter kirby, 50, says: 'Nigel has turned the spotlight on the corrupt lot of' MPsCredit: North News and Pictures
His twin, John, turned up for the Brexit Party founder's fourth talk on the 'We Are Ready' tourCredit: North News and Pictures
Sue Forster, 68, of Durham, admits 'the betrayal of 17.4million people' made her switch from the ToriesCredit: North News and Pictures
Barry Paterson, 65, of Selby, North Yorks, believes that 'the Brexit Party are the ones standing up for democracy'Credit: North News and Pictures
Tim Martin, the founder of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, also spoke at the event in SedgefieldCredit: North News and Pictures
Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice, an MEP and a prospective MP, delivered a well-received speech in SedgefieldCredit: North News and Pictures
The Brexit Party Conference Tour made a stop in Sedgefield on September 11
Sedgefield is Tony Blair’s former constituency and a historically Labour strongholdCredit: Alamy
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