Steven Bannon appears to have lost the Chief of Staff post to Reince Priebus after he grossly embarrassed the President-Elect – by arranging for Nigel Farage and a man named Raheem Kassam to have a photo-op with him in Trump Tower.
Mr. Kassam is a Breitbart writer and former Farage aide who told Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, to “tape her mouth shut – and her legs, so she can’t reproduce”. First Minister Sturgeon had suffered a devastating miscarriage and lost a child.
The group boasted that they spent over an hour with Mr. Trump, which constitutes a gross insult to the people of Scotland. It is however unlikely that Donald Trump had ever heard of Mr. Kassam or knew his history of personal insults to the political leader of Scotland. Mr. Bannon, however, employed Mr. Kassam to run Breitbart London and knew of them perfectly well.
Some hours after these crushingly embarrassing photographs were taken, the White House announced that Mr. Bannon, formerly the favorite for the post, was not to be Chief of Staff after all but would merely have an informal role as a strategist. White House Kremlinologists immediately saw it for the defeat for Bannon that it was. Roger Stone may have regretted his advance tweet:
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) November 12, 2016
Pretty upset Trump picked GOP establishment insider Reince Prebius as COS. First victory goes 2 Ryan & McConnellhttps://t.co/ACkAOxOSeQ
— Albanach (@albanach68) November 14, 2016
Meanwhile, Mr. Nigel Farage, also in the photo, caused merriment in Britain at the idea Trump and Bannon could force the UK to give him some governmental role. Prime Minister Theresa May poured ice water all over it.
Mr. Bannon’s spinners like to say that Mr. Farage was a chief figure in Brexit. In point of fact, he was shoved aside for the Referendum battle by his own party and Britain’s election regulators. Mr. Farage lost the “designation” battle in the UK – a legal decision by the country’s nonpartisan Electoral Commission to decide who would lead the fight for Brexit – and so Farage had no official role in Brexit. Vote Leave, the official group, carried on the fight and successfully won that referendum for Brexit supporters, leaving Nigel Farage incredibly upset and complaining that nobody gave him any respect.
Vote Leave wins official Out designation — means Gove/Boris/IDS etc will be official faces of the Brexit campaign and Farage sidelined
— Nigel Morris (@NigelpMorris) April 13, 2016
In fact, on the night of the referendum, a tired and emotional Mr. Farage conceded that Remain had won the Brexit vote mere seconds after the close of poll, proving how far out of the action he was.
— indy100 (@indy100) June 23, 2016
Nigel Farage concedes Brexit defeat seconds after EU Referendum polls close | Daily Mail Online: https://t.co/8f3WGTIgbV
— pops (@pops131) June 23, 2016
His financial backer, the savvy Arron Banks, was not complimentary.
Asked why Nigel Farage conceded defeat at 10pm, Arron Banks says: "No idea!"
— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) June 23, 2016
Mr. Farage also did not have much of a stiff upper lip after losing South Thanet in the UK’s general election, the eighth straight time he has failed to be elected as an MP in UKIP-friendly seats. His bitter rival, Douglas Carswell MP, was, however, re-elected for UKIP twice.
Mr. Bannon founded Breitbart London in order, he told the New York Times, to help get Mr. Farage elected, something he failed to do over a number of contests. He would then have been further disappointed when Mr. Farage, having boasted that he would shove his rival Mr. Carswell out of UKIP at a meeting of the party’s executive committee, was instead found to have “resigned” himself after that same committee meeting. Mr. Carswell’s response was succinct:
With Mr. Farage gone, Mr. Bannon’s influence in UKIP evaporated. There was his inability to put Mr. Kassam into the leadership to succeed Farage, and Mr. Banks rather forlornly seemed to say he would withdraw his support.
But one trump card remained for the fading Farage, whose term as an MEP expires with Brexit. Mr. Bannon, his patron, was a backer of Donald Trump. Mr. Bannon is currently being touted as a possible Chief of Staff, a position that doesn’t require Congressional approval. Could he somehow use this to obtain continued significance for Nigel Farage in Britain?
Alas, the answer to that was also no. A triumphant Nigel Farage leaked to the Bannon-backing newspaper the Daily Express that he, Farage, would be a ‘go-between’ between Britain and the President. Quite an enormous promotion for somebody whom Theresa May’s government had totally ignored.
Alas! It was not to be.
— Scott Nelson (@SocialistVoice) November 11, 2016
Indeed, the government’s flat denials were more than a little embarrassing for papers that had fallen for Farage and Bannon’s spin. No. 10 called Mr. Farage ‘irrelevant.’ Commentators pointed out he was a mere ‘fringe politician’.
— Peter Thompson (@TheRedRag) November 13, 2016
A piqued Mr. Bannon then arranged the photo-op which embarrassed Republican leaders, who know that they must work with the United Kingdom. In point of fact, the UK is used to dealing with US Presidents who have a petty grievance against Britain. President Obama offered the UK a series of snubs, but it did not affect the work of government. Prime Minister May does not need the respect of Donald Trump any more than David Cameron was affected by the dislike of Obama. Britain remains unfussed by Mr. Trump’s desire to have Farage given a role. It will not happen.
But it does have the potential to annoy Mrs. May. Just as the photo-op seems to have had devastating consequences for Mr. Bannon, Nigel Farage will suffer for it too. He had wanted to be made a peer – Lord Farage – for a long time. But any potential peerage under consideration for him as a former UKIP leader is likely to be prevented if Mr. Farage uses Bannon to troll around with President-Elect Trump. A peerage would give Farage a very minor role in the legislature. Without one, he returns to being a mere private citizen post-Brexit, when his MEP (Member of the European Parliament) title expires.
It would be important to the government to prevent Mr. Farage having any lever whereby he could be said to count in or for the UK, no matter how tiny. The Prime Minister may simply deal with Congress, where most power of policy lies.
Britain has already, indeed, fired a shot across Trump’s bows, saying it will continue to attack Assad in Syria. This will come as a shock to Mr. Trump, who may have expected that as President he could ‘lead the free world’.
Mr. Bannon makes President-Elect Trump look foolish by insulting both Scotland and the wider UK. No wonder he has lost the Chief of Staff position he so desperately desired. More stunts like this will see the GOP leadership flexing their muscles even harder. Mr. Trump’s power will be bowdlerized without Congress. The fact that he has picked the ultimate establishment insider over Mr. Bannon is causing exultation among those who believe that Trump can indeed become a second Reagan, if he divests himself of those who are great at Twitter trolling, but poor at real politics.