Nigel Farage was proud at the height of Britain’s far right movement that his initials NF also stood for National Front, according to a close school friend who after years of silence says he now wants the public to understand more about the man.
He also claims the teenage Mr Farage sang “gas ‘em all, gas ‘em all”, a neo-Nazi song about Jewish people.
The former friend attended fee-paying Dulwich College in south London with the ex-Ukip leader in the late Seventies and early Eighties and says he has kept quiet about his memories until now, in part out of a sense of loyalty.
For many years, he observed the rise of the politician’s career proud they had shared schooldays together. At times he even cheered Mr Farage’s trademark onslaughts in the European Parliament by saying “good on Nigel”.
But over the past several months the successful professional has become alarmed by divisions he believes are being created in Britain partly as a result of the rhetoric and imagery used by the MEP.
When he saw him standing in front of a Leave.EU poster of refugees with the words “Breaking Point” during the latter stages of the Brexit campaign, he thought it was time to speak out.
At that moment, he remembered the teenage Nigel who he says would provoke and “enchant” teachers and pupils alike and supported the British 1930s fascist Oswald Mosley.
His former friend initially planned to identify himself, but after the killing of MP Jo Cox in June he claims he is fearful of potential repercussions from fanatics.
He has now written an open letter to Mr Farage in The Independent. In it, he says he does not believe his former classmate and confidant has any sympathy with fascist views today but he has been considering how much his views have evolved between his youth and middle age.
He argues it was wrong of their former headteacher, the late David Emms, to brush off his extreme views as “naughtiness” and that there are lessons to be learned for how schools deal with extreme behaviour today.
He said were a Muslim pupil were to express extreme Islamist views at school now, they would be dealt with immediately and referred to mentoring programmes.
He said it is to be hoped the same applies to non-Muslim extremism. “Let’s hope schools are now taking action on the kind of comments you made at school,” he writes in his letter.
He says they were close friends in their teenage years.
“I remember the way you enchanted people at school — senior teachers and fellow pupils alike,” he writes. “Your English project on fishing enthralled everyone. I remember mine being particularly boring. You were and are a great speaker, for sure.
“But I also remember other, darker things about you. There was a time when I used to look back and dismiss much of them as the amusing naughtiness of teenagers as we were, much like our old headmaster David Emms did.
“I haven’t chosen to write before, but I simply have to now. I now wonder if there is a connection between you at 16 and you at 52. There are things that tell me your views might not have changed that much despite the many years.”
It is not the first time Mr Farage has faced accusations of holding fascist views at school. In 2013, a letter emerged from a former Dulwich College teacher, Chloe Deakin, to then headteacher Mr Emms, who died earlier this year. According to the letter written in June 1981 – two months after the Brixton riots a couple of miles away – she pleaded unsuccessfully with Mr Emms to reverse his decision to make Nigel a prefect. She said colleagues had told her he held “publicly professed racist and fascist views” and that he had once marched through a Sussex village singing Hitler Youth songs.
When confronted by these accusations in 2013, Mr Farage said: “I don’t know any Hitler youth songs, in English or German… . Any accusation I was ever involved in far right politics is utterly untrue.
“Of course I said some ridiculous things, not necessarily racist things. It depends how you define it.”
Other former pupils of the school told Channel 4 in 2013 that Mr Farage’s views were “merely Thatcherite”.
Another man who also knew him at school has told The Independent Mr Farage became a target for some Left-leaning teachers because he would embarrass them in pupils versus staff debates.
However, Mr Farage’s former friend now suggests there may have been more to the story. He writes today: “But I do remember you singing the song starting with the words ‘gas them all, gas ‘em all, gas them all’.
“I can’t forget the words. I can’t bring myself to write the rest of it for it is more vile than anything the teachers at Dulwich would ever have been aware of.”
He said the lyrics were sung to the George Formby tune ‘Bless ‘em all’.
He adds: “We hear much of ‘due diligence’ in today’s financial world, but had the teachers and headmaster of Dulwich investigated the concerns around your appointment as a prefect with your peers – as they would hopefully today in similar circumstances – they might have made a very different decision.
“They might not have brushed them under the carpet; they might have made you think a little more about your rhetoric; history might be a little different today.
“For I vividly recall the keen interest you had in two initials of your name written together as a signature and the bigoted symbol that represents from the many doodles over your school books. Nigel Farage, NF, National Front. I remember watching you draw it. Just a laugh, eh, Nigel?
“…In April 1981, we had the Brixton riots. They happened just up the road from our school. The images of rioting people, many of them from the racial minorities, made it easy to discriminate; many people did back then.
“The National Front was hugely popular by comparison to today. So, turbulent times back then… but have you not moved on?
The neo-Nazi National Front was at its peak during the years Mr Farage was at school in the mid-late Seventies when it had 14,000 paid-up members. They were frequently involved in violent clashes with the police and the organisation had developed sister groups in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Canada. It had also campaigned against Britain’s membership of the EEC.
Mr Farage’s former friend told The Independent his decision to speak out was not motivated by any anger over June’s vote to leave the EU.
He said although he voted Remain, he was a “reluctant Remainer” and that he sympathised with some of Mr Farage’s concerns on immigration.
However, he writes: “From being a real fan, I found myself thinking more and more with every appearance of yours on television that we must be aware of false prophets. Notably, the image of a desperate line of refugees, photographed not even in England, showed me that Nigel Farage has perhaps not changed that much.
“These people were used as live currency to further your cause to represent Britain being at breaking point from European immigrants – although those people were from outside of Europe. The imagery of a loss of control, hopelessness, of our own politicians not caring for us is the stuff of two world wars. I can hear you say “useless” in the way you used to.
“As I have said, the immigration issue surely needs fixing, but you have shamefully used this picture.
“Seeing your gloating display post referendum at the European Parliament just rammed home the point: it seemed here we had a bit of the Nigel I knew at school. Yes, you’ve fought 20 years and no one took you seriously – but let us have some humility.”
Mr Farage stepped down as Ukip leader days after the victorious Brexit campaign in June. He is due to start a tour of European countries next month when he will advise other Eurosceptic parties on how to follow Ukip’s lead.
His former friend writes today: “I’m sure the neo-Nazis in Golden Dawn in Greece will cheer you loudly. The people of Greece, beware.
“…I think you’re a troublemaker. You were at school, you are now. But we need to beware of what’s being whipped up.”
Mr Farage did not directly respond to the claims made by his former friend. Instead, he said: “To say that this is going over old ground is an understatement. The period during which I was at Dulwich was highly politically charged with the rise of Thatcherism to the Brixton riots just down the road.
“There were many people of that time who were attracted to extreme groups on both sides of the debate.”
He added: “Whoever sent you this must be a little of touch to say that I supported Oswald Mosley as he believed in a United States of Europe. Some people need to get over Brexit.”
Dulwich College did not respond to a request for comment.