After suffering a torrid time since the British general election, allies of the leader of UKIP are fighting back. On the front page of the Daily Nigel, sorry of the Daily Express, the message is that the party’s “war is over.” Now there is peace in our time, the plotters against the great leader will no doubt all be strung up. It is, after all, the only language they understand.
But in reality the UKIP war is far from over. To misquote Churchill: this is not even the end of the beginning, although it may be the beginning of the end for Nigel Farage’s party if they keep up the current level of infighting and whining.
As I wrote for the Telegraph at the weekend, UKIP is toxic for the “Out” campaign in the looming referendum.
“The opinion polls are already heavily against those who want to depart, and young voters are particularly opposed to the idea. In such unpropitious circumstances, the only hope of the Out campaign lies in building a broad-based coalition of interests that can calmly make a positive case for not being afraid of such a dramatic change. Reasonableness and politeness to opponents is required to win over the undecided – and association with people perceived by normal voters to be narrow-minded, nationalistic nut-jobs won’t help.”
Dan Hannan, writing for CapX today, has already mapped out an alternative route for the Better Off Out crowd. The key, he writes, is optimism.
That is surely correct. The only way that “Out” gets to 50.1% – which will be very difficult – is if enough British voters feel reassured about leaving the EU. Incidentally, the Out side should push back whenever it is said that this referendum is about Britain “leaving Europe.” Britain cannot leave the European neighbourhood. The European Union and Europe are not the same thing, although the terms are used interchangeably by the European media.
It all means that “Out” will have to appeal to the 88% of voters who did not vote for Nigel Farage’s UKIP. And any suggestion – as promoted by the Express today – that Nigel Farage can play a leading role in the campaign is a non-starter. Farage is a hero to a minority but many other voters, particularly women, find him a huge turn-off. For that reason, a big money Eurosceptic donor needs to arrange for Farage to be kidnapped and locked in a cupboard until Christmas 2017. It will have to be a very large cupboard, with sufficient room to store all the Rothmans and casks of London Pride required to get him through the next two and a half years.
But Farage is refusing to go quietly. His friends were also briefing at the weekend that once the party’s plotters have been dealt with then UKIP will be run as even more of an autocracy. How is that even possible? The only way in which UKIP could be more of an autocratic personality cult is if all members are forced to get an “I love Nige'” tattoo and swear an oath of fealty at a large rally.