Yesterday, The Daily Mail ran an article entitled, “Ukip on brink of going bust: Party hit by huge fall in members after flop election“, which sort of did what it said on the tin. While one should always be careful not to take too much account of what the Mail might say about anything, the relevant facts the article points out, such as UKIP’s notable drop in membership since the general election (a quarter of members departing), and a significant drop in funds from donors compared to pre-election (which makes some sense given they would have expected to get the big money in the run up to the general election; still, it is a massive drop off regardless) do stack up. Add to this the fact that UKIP dropping from two MPs to one is significant funding wise (you qualify for short funding once you have more than one MP), and you do start to contemplate the fact that the party could have real problems.
Worse yet, UKIP have a major competitor to deal with these days in the form of two campaigns for Britain to exit the EU. Now that the real game is on, it only makes sense that Eurosceptics with money to burn would back one of the campaigns to make that happen as opposed to UKIP. In a way, from their perspective, it could be a matter of: “Thanks for getting us here, Nigel. We wouldn’t be having the referendum without you. Now sod off.” Add all of these things together, and it is very possible that UKIP could be in existential peril.
I really doubt it, though. UKIP have several things going their way. First, Farage is a brilliant fundraiser, and in this game that counts for a lot. Second, with the number of MPs they’ve got, there’s always a way to get some money out of Brussels, one way or another. How about that for a beautifully ironic set up? UKIP is threatened by the one thing they exist to campaign for coming into existence, namely a campaign to get Britain out of the EU, but are then saved by the EU itself. Isn’t politics swell?
They’ll survive the EU referendum process, I can’t see it being otherwise. As I’ve said many times before, it’s the post-referendum period that really counts for UKIP. We are about to get a fascinating test, mere weeks away, regarding UKIP trying to use Corbyn to drive the old Labour vote in the north into their arms instead. I suspect that despite the lack of funding at their disposal, it will be a relatively successful outing. Not enough to win the seat, or even to come as close as the Heywood and Middleton experience, but close enough to demonstrate that it is a route that can be electorally successful in future. In fact, I would go as far as say that if UKIP fall short of coming within at least 5,000 votes of Jim McMahon on December 3rd, that’s when we can start talking about UKIP being in existential trouble in earnest.