Farage resigns after defeats for anti-EU camp

Farage resigns after defeats for anti-EU camp
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) arrives at Winter Gardens in Margate, southeast England, May 8, 2015.

MARGATE, United Kingdom - Nigel Farage turned the UK Independence Party (UKIP) into a national force and helped it win millions of votes but his anti-EU drive was stopped short on Friday in its bid to scale the walls of Westminster.

Farage himself failed to win a seat in parliament in Thursday's general election and his party, which also campaigned against austerity and mass immigration, only managed to secure one House of Commons spot.

The 51-year-old Farage, who suffered from back trouble during the campaign, stuck to his pre-election promise that he would quit if he lost his Commons bid and announced his resignation on Friday.

"I feel an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders," he said at a count centre in Margate in the Thanet South constituency where he was standing.

Farage complained that his party's poor performance showed up the deficiencies of the electoral system, which grants seats only by individual constituencies and does not take into account total votes cast.

"I think the time has come for real genuine radical political reform," he said.

Rarely photographed without a pint of beer, the charismatic Farage reminds UKIP's base of older, white, blue collar voters of a bygone era when the economy felt stronger, immigration was lower and Britain was great.

Anti-Brussels and anti-political correctness, Farage, who once compared ex-European Council president Herman Van Rompuy to a "damp rag", led UKIP to top the polls in last year's European Parliament elections.

Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the party of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" but the Conservatives clearly identified them as a threat.

Plain-speaking and populist, Farage was expected to triumph in the televised leaders' debates, but failed to shine, often cutting an isolated figure.

Farage has admitted he struggled at the start of the campaign, saying his health was hit by trying to do too many things.

He survived a plane crash while campaigning in the 2010 election and said he had been suffering back pain as he hit the campaign trail.

'Bloody-minded and difficult'

Farage was born in 1964 to an affluent family in Kent, southeast England. His father was a stockbroker and an alcoholic and his parents divorced when he was five.

He was educated at one of England's top private schools, Dulwich College in London, where he says his headmaster saw him as "bloody-minded and difficult".

Rather than attending university, he followed his father into the City of London, where the former commodities trader says 12-hour boozy lunches were the norm.

Having supported the Conservatives since his school days, he joined UKIP in 1993 as a founding member and was elected to the European Parliament in 1999, aged 35.

Farage became UKIP's leader in 2006 before standing down in 2009 and then being re-elected the following year, when UKIP's ascent really began.

He has survived a string of personal misfortunes - a serious car accident and testicular cancer, in addition to the plane crash.

Farage has four children: two boys by his first wife and two girls by his German second wife Kirsten. His interests include cricket and fishing.

Despite his wealthy background, he prides himself on keeping up with the concerns of ordinary people in the "pubs, coffee mornings and yes, even the golf clubs of Britain".

He avoids the kind of race-related gaffes for which UKIP has expelled a string of members but sparked controversy in the leaders' debates by suggesting immigrants with HIV should not receive treatment on the state-funded National Health Service.

UKIP's popularity under Farage played a major part in prompting Cameron to promise a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU, which would take place by the end of 2017.

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