For those of you who haven’t seen Nigel Farage speaking at a Republican rally in America in support of Donald Trump – don’t bother, it will only depress you further about the state of the universe. To summarise, Farage tells Americans they can overcome the might of global corporate greed by electing the head of huge corporation that is the candidate in question’s namesake as president.
No, instead immerse yourself in the goings on of the UKIP leadership contest. I know what you’re thinking – I completely forgot that was happening! I would assume this is because UKIP have somehow managed to conduct a reasonably professional leadership contest, free of the usual gaffes that would get them in the press? Nope.
UKIP have pulled off the very impressive feat of having their campaign for a new leader to replace Nigel Farage be totally ramshackle and yet incredibly boring at the same time. Say what you will about the increasingly amateurish tone of modern day politics generally, only UKIP could pull magic trick this off. Every once in a while the whole thing does resurface, like this morning when contender Bill Etheridge told a hustings that he thought the BBC should be privatised to halt – get this – “left wing propaganda being rammed down our throats”.
That is the second stupidest thing a UKIP leadership candidate could have said at this point (the first being a wish to privatise the NHS). What do they not understand about ex-Labour voters being their prime target audience? Quite a lot, if Etheridge is anything to go by. Post-Brexit vote, the space for an English nationalist, socially conservative but economically statist political party that will “hold the Tories to account on their Brexit promises” is so massive it is genuinely scary. Yet UKIP seem incredibly determined to miss the boat on this one. Most of the people involved seem unable to understand why so many people voted UKIP at the last general election – or they do understand and are actively trying to dissuade those same people from ever voting for them again.
“Look, I know you are dying for a patriotic party of pro-Brexiteers, but we don’t want you poor people, okay? We’re a bunch of self-absorbed ex-Tories, completely out of touch with most of your day to day to concerns. We will continue to remind you of this until you vote Labour again for lack of a reasonable alternative.”
Of course, it must be noted that apparently Etheridge got a massive cheer from the crowd for his BBC privatisation comment. He was playing to gallery, which demonstrates UKIP’s greatest weakness (beyond being organisationally inept, I mean): their activist base is totally removed from their ideal target voters. The people who are the beating heart of UKIP proactively do not want to become the party that fate is beckoning them to be.
After the Brexit vote, I was really terrified about just how massive a party UKIP might ripen into. Thankfully, they have now totally blown it. Perhaps Arron Banks really will start a new party that can capitalise on this space, but I increasing doubt it. It appears that a major bullet has been dodged by sheer ineptitude. Whew.