Wednesday 28 June 2017

But what of Ukip?

It's a while since I paid any attention to the fortunes of Ukip. A quick look at Raheem Kassam's timeline on Twitter this evening reminds me just what an unpleasant bunch they are. There seems to be a running dispute as to whether the party should be a BNP style entity run by Anne Marie Waters or an alt-right entity headed up by someone else presumably. The expression "bald men fighting over a comb" springs to mind.

Both Kassam and Carswell now seem to be in agreement that Ukip is dead. Ordinarily I wouldn't give a tinkers damn in that Ukip has squandered its momentum and wasted its potential. It has few, if any, intellectual assets and is still labouring under the misapprehension that Ukip flavour misanthropy is a winning ticket. There is nowhere for it to go if it regresses further up the ultra right cul-de-sac. They all hate each other and are too concerned with battling over the dregs to focus on the tasks before it.

If there was ever a role for Ukip post-Brexit then it would be to carry the momentum of the referendum over to convert the sentiment expressed against the establishment into a more concrete movement for change. But actually, it doesn't know what it wants - except that it has something to do with Muslims.

The great sadness in this is that if we look at those now influencing the direction of Brexit it is the usual array of business groups and remain inclined think tankers and academics. This is ground Farage ceded a long time ago by choosing the populist path. The consequence of that is that there are no thinking leavers steering the agenda. Farage made certain of that.

Occasionally though, one gets a reminder that Ukip at one time was a good party of good people, and this television appearance by leadership contender Ben Walker shows that there is some self-awareness in the party. If the brand could be detoxified then it could be salvaged into a civic constructivist ideas party - influencing from the fringe. I think Ben Walker has the right idea in making it a more consultative entity, reaching out to branches and making the running of the party more inclusive, but this is really closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. This needed to happen ten years ago.

It is difficult now to see how it can be snatched away from the Farage devotees. Moreover, the obvious problem for Ukip now is that there is nothing much to sustain it. It has no real intellectual foundation, its reason for being has passed and its primary source of funding, the EU, is soon to be no more. All that is left is a toxic brand in the shadow of Farage and no real idea of what it wants to be.

I take the the view, for what it's worth, that if anyone can transform Ukip and revive it then it's Ben Walker. A decent man with a good CV. A healer and reformer. If there is anything left of the Ukip I once knew then it can be saved. For that though it must ditch the hard right dogma and turn its back on the Breitbart crowd. That may mean a significant pruning in support, but Ukip cannot rebuild unless the cancer is carved out. It pretty much means starting from scratch but as far as I'm concerned if Ben isn't the next leader then it does not deserve to survive.

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