Stephen Woolfe, the maybe, maybe-not candidate to be the next UKIP leader, was on Radio 4 this morning. You see, Stephen’s been dogged by two problems concerning his candidacy. One, an apparent lapse in his membership at some point a couple of years ago (UKIP have this absurd rule you have to have been a member for five years to run, which rules out most credible possibilities). Two, the fact that due to what sounds like an error in UKIP’s own IT systems, his official application didn’t arrive at UKIP HQ until it was 17 minutes too late.
Woolfe answered the questions thoughtfully and came across as more credible than any other UKIPer ever, with the possible exception of Carswell. I thought, “UKIP could wreak havoc with this chap in charge.” Luckily, it looks like, as per usual, UKIP are going to fluff the moment.
I said several weeks ago that I feared UKIP would become a real force to be reckoned with if they got themselves together. I told you that under Paul Nuttall, they could possibly gain a chunk of seats off of Labour at the next general election. Then, for whatever reason, Nuttall declined to run for the leadership. Now, Woolfe isn’t quite as perfect a potential UKIP leader as Nuttall, but he’s the next best thing (if Nuttall were a 10, Woolfe would be an 8.5). If UKIP conspires to somehow not let him run via a stupid technicality, then they are an even worse shower than I had ever thought of them as being even in my most optimistic mind frame.
And that’s what might save us liberals in the end, at least from the worst of the possible post-Brexit vote fallout – the other side being self-destructive idiots. I really hope they rule Woolfe out for the 17 minutes thing (that sounds distinctly like the party’s fault anyhow) or the lapsed membership thing (which again, sounds mostly like the party’s fault). They will have taken one of the most golden opportunities ever handed to any political party in British history and flushed it down the loo.
It would be like if prior to the 1922 general election the Labour Party had decided to not field any candidates whatsoever in order to let the Liberals get their shit together again. UKIP are facing a balls up on that sort of historic scale. The country has just voted for their main policy – more people voted for it than any group of voters have voted for anything in the history of the country. It has imposed on May and the Tories a challenge that cannot be won, i.e. settling Brexit in a way that doesn’t either destroy the economy or upset millions of people. All UKIP need is a decent leader who sounds plausible and rational, and a policy platform that is essentially left-wing economically (save the NHS, more money for public services) while being right-wing socially (flag and family, anti-immigration) and they would become a massive rising force in British politics over the next decade.
So we should be thankfully they are about to fluff it. Instead of Woolfe, UKIP will probably get someone who sounds like a rehash of Nick Griffin circa 2002 and the moment will slip away from them. Again.