Opening with apocalyptic choir music and a compilation of Nigel Farage’s best comments (including his “Independence Day” speech from the day after the Brexit referendum and his “damp rag” comments to Herman van Rompuy), it was clear that the producers at LBC knew why people would be tuning in to their newest nightly broadcast. But anyone expecting Farage to set the airwaves on fire with populist rhetoric may have come away disappointed by Monday night’s maiden broadcast.
Some might be surprised at the thought of a political leader - especially one such as Farage - being given his own prime-time radio show. But Farage already has a history of appearing on LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation, to give it its full name), which is one of the few British media outlets to give voice to the full political spectrum. Hosts on the station range from notorious Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins to pro-EU journalist James O’Brien, who regularly goes viral due to exchanges with Brexiteers on his show.
"This show is all about you," said Farage in the middle of his opening monologue. "Whether you’re a Remainer or a Brexiteer, I want to hear from you!" And with that, he opened the phone lines. The show, which seems to take the format of Farage posing a different question to listeners every night, decided for its first edition to ask whether Theresa May was "playing her cards too close to her chest" in the wake of the referendum result.
Anyone playing a game of "UKIP Bingo" would have gotten a full house very quickly: all of the typical phrases like "Remoaner" and "will of the people" were quick to appear, and there were calls for Farage to lead the Brexit negotiations (and even the country). But the tone remained almost surreally calm throughout. Maybe the old-fashioned format demands some old-fashioned civility. After all, it’s easier to hide behind a tweet than to call a public broadcast and use your actual voice. But perhaps not so old-fashioned as that - listeners called from as far as the Philippines and Dallas, Texas to join the debate.
That said, it also helped that for the most part the callers were all broadly in favour of the referendum result, even if they disagreed on the PM’s handling of the negotiations. The only voice of dissent came from Chris in Manchester, who asked Farage how he felt about "leading the British people to this decision." Not exactly a damning indictment, and one that Nigel easily brushed off.
In fact, the most interesting topic of conversation was most conspicuous by its absence. Aside from a few comments about "going back and forth to America over the last few months", almost no reference was made to the US elections and Farage’s cosying up to President-elect Donald Trump. Still, don’t rule out a call from "Donald in Washington" sometime in the future.
Of course, it’s still too early to predict what direction The Nigel Farage Show will take. Maybe in a few weeks, when the host feels more comfortable and the listeners more invested, it will have a very different tone. But the most entertaining moment of last night’s proceedings came during an inadvertently subtext-laden ad break. The first commercial was for holidays in the disputed territory of Gibraltar. The second was for a divorce lawyer.