Say what you like about UKIP but they’ve always been good comedy value. If they wanted to remain a serious force in British politics, the events of the last 8 months have conspired against them.
Once the referendum delivered the result it had longed for, UKIP’s raison d’etre expired. Within days, Nigel Farage resigned and like the rest of the Tory Brexiteers, he cut and ran. He flew across the Atlantic post-haste to prostrate himself before Donald Trump and accept a well-paying job as a political analyst for Fox News (seriously).
Farage’s departure plunged the party into a leadership election, which was won by Diane James, who resigned after 18 days in the job. She then joined the Tories.
UKIP attracted more negative coverage when two of its MEPs were involved in an altercation in the European Parliament, involving the appropriately monikered Mike Hookem and Steven Woolfe, which put the latter in hospital. The party cleared Hookem of punching Woolfe.
Woolfe himself had been tipped to succeed Farage but his hopes were dashed when he failed to deliver his nomination papers on time. He later admitted that he had “been in talks with the Tories”. No one was surprised.
Farage returned as interim leader to no one’s surprise.
With Woolfe out of the way, UKIP’s second leadership election was won by Paul Nuttall, who immediately announced that he was going to “challenge Labour in its heartlands”. His chance to shine came in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. He even had the BBC talking up his chances of winning and he still lost. The accumulation of his lies and deceptions having conspired against him.
But last week, things went from bad to worse for the Kippers. Arron Banks, one of the party’s biggest donors, announced he was leaving after allegedly falling out with the leadership. He invoiced them for his last donation of £200, 000. It isn’t personal, you see. It’s business.
Then, over the weekend, UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell resigned and became an independent. Carswell, a maverick and self-confessed Ayn Rand fan (sic), had always been at odds with his party leadership. UKIP’s deputy leader, Peter Whittle, even claimed that Carswell’s resignation was “a breath of fresh air”. A bizarre admission, for sure.
Carswell, for his part, has denied that he will return to the Tories. He told the Evening Standard:
“I’m not going to rejoin the Conservatives — I’d need to call a by-election, my wife [Clementine] would kill me and my constituents wouldn’t be too happy.
There’s always 2020.
In spite of its posturing, UKIP was never a serious anti-establishment party; it was a project for disenchanted Eurosceptic Tories and like-minded ethno-nationalists and Empire Loyalists. Its leadership is dominated by former Tories and many of its major donors are former or current Tories. It railed against elites but is controlled by elites.
After the referendum and Farage’s resignation, UKIP was on life support. That isn’t the case any more. It’s lying lifeless on a cold slab in the mortuary waiting to be buried.
UKIP: the only way is down.