So, Westminster’s worst-kept secret is out: Nigel Farage’s marriage is over.
The former UKIP leader recently moved into a bachelor pad in London and, shortly afterwards, Laure Ferrari, a Frenchwoman 15 years his junior, moved in. Naturally, Nigel swears this is just temporary and he’s merely helping out an old chum needing somewhere to stay this side of the Channel. You know, what with him being so famously welcoming to Europeans wanting to come here.
And, on the face of it, so what? Farage’s love life is nobody’s business but his – especially now he’s not even a party leader. He and his second wife, Kirsten, had been living separate lives for some time, but were perfectly entitled to keep that quiet, given that their two teenage daughters have doubtless been teased enough at school already over their famous father.
And, unlike the sort of politicians who bang on in public about the sanctity of marriage before being caught sleeping with the intern, Farage is not a hypocrite. He’s never dragged his family into politics and, if he's photographed lovingly cradling anything, it’s usually a pint and a fag.
But, if his sex life is off limits, his finances are not. And that’s what makes the woman photographed putting his bins out (oh, the glamour) worth a second look.
Laure Ferrari was waiting tables in a Strasbourg restaurant when she first met Farage in 2007 but, before long, he found her a job working for the party in the European parliament. She ended up running a think tank called the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe, which has been accused of breaking rules over the way it channelled public money to UKIP here (the funds aren't meant to be used in national-election or referendum campaigning).
Now, Britain’s own electoral watchdog, the Electoral Commission, is investigating whether UKIP accepted any donations it shouldn’t have.
And, yes, all this is less amusing than boggling at Nigel Farage's love life. But it’s also far more important in the long run.
If his sex life is off limits, his finances are not. And that’s what makes the woman photographed putting his bins out (oh, the glamour) worth a second look
This is a man who built a populist movement by whipping up public anger against supposedly corrupt elites – the sort of people who cosily fill each other’s pockets while the little guy loses out. He made a career out of attacking what he calls the Brussels gravy train and the way the EU supposedly wastes public money. And, now, he’s sharing a £4m flat in Chelsea (paid for, apparently, by a rich businessman friend) with a woman accused of helping his party do pretty much exactly that.
But it's not just Farage. Donald Trump built a movement by whipping up public anger at the supposedly incestuously closed circle running the country, only to put his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on the staff. He accused Hillary Clinton of being in hock to big banks like Goldman Sachs but, since becoming president, has hired no fewer than six executives from, erm, Goldman Sachs. He's been criticised, too, for failing to separate his business interests sufficiently from his presidential office.
In France, meanwhile, Marine le Pen’s far-right Front National is being investigated over allegations that it defrauded the European Parliament by using public money to pay aides carrying out non-parliamentary work. So far, supporters don’t seem to care, any more than Farage’s supporters seem to care that two UKIP MEPs have, in the past, been jailed for expenses fraud. People happy to believe the worst of conventional politicians won’t have a word said against their new saviours.
But history suggests no politician gets a free pass for ever and, if the lives of hard-up people who voted for Trump or Brexit out of desperation don’t get better – well, that’s when this stuff potentially starts to count. Marriages end, people move on and everyone understands that. The faintest whiff of hypocrisy, however, lingers rather longer.