Everything is on a plate for UKIP at the moment. Actually, from the moment Cameron promised to hold an EU referendum, it always was. If we had voted to Remain, UKIP could have mopped up the disaffected, particularly the ex-Labour voters. As it stands, the prize they could grab could be much, much bigger now that the country has voted to Leave.
The one thing I thought might hold them up (and I’ve said many times before has been UKIP’s biggest problem all along) is if Farage clings egotistically to the leadership. Two reasons why this would have been tricky for the party: one, Farage is marmite. Yes, his message was ultimately the one that won the referendum, but I still maintain it was better for Leave that he was mostly in the background and that others delivered it. Two, he’s a control freak who never allowed the party to flourish through his own need to have the final say on everything. With him gone, liberals of all parties and all stripes best be careful – UKIP could now become massive beyond anything envisioned by its creators.
The reason I say everything is on a plate for UKIP is this: May looks likely to be the next prime minister. Her first priority will be keeping the UK in the single market. UKIP gold dust, that is – how long will it take to turn the “Tory establishment stitch up” into a “betrayal of the Leave vote”? Not very long. Even if Leadsom gets the premiership, it will all be messy and awful (in so many ways), and not quite right enough for the Leavers. UKIP will, either way, get to pose as the people’s champions. The message that somehow Leave would have worked out perfectly if UKIP had been in charge will resonate will a lot of voters, believe it or not.
Again, this is all particularly true if Nuttall is leader post-Farage. Here is a guy that could aim his tanks at those places in the north that voted Leave in large numbers, previously unthinkably safe Labour seats, and turn them into UKIP strongholds. In case you think I’m being hysterical, look at my form on this – I said UKIP would end up with one seat after the general election, and I was right. I don’t have a history of overestimating UKIP’s electoral potential. So from that perspective let me tell you this: a Nuttall led UKIP could even become the most dominant force in UK politics in a few years time, bar no one. The Tories have played themselves into a terrible spot, forced to come up with an answer on Brexit when there isn’t one that won’t piss off most of the country or destroy the economy, at least short term; Labour are close to split or else made into a joke; no one else is in the race. UKIP are being given an opportunity to say they are the only ones who truly speak for the 52% who voted Leave, and I can imagine lots of that 52% lapping this message up. I don’t even want to make a prediction on the number of seats that UKIP might get if there was a general election in the next few years. In fact, I think this is the major reason the Tories are scared of a general election.
UKIP are most likely about to get themselves a leader who matches their ideal seat targets, who can speak to those ex-Labour voters they want to pick up. Who also isn’t an egomaniac like Farage who will allow the party to grow. In Arron Banks, they have a guy who will fund them on a massive scale (unless Banks runs for leader himself and wins – UKIP do have the means of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory here, thankfully). I don’t mean to unduly alarm people, but there could be yet another political tsunami headed our way – and it could be the scariest one yet.