THE BLOG
23/01/2018 15:59 GMT | Updated 23/01/2018 15:59 GMT

Here’s How Ukip Could Rise From The Dead... Seriously

The party needs to stick to what it does best: Brexit

It’s not looking good for Ukip.

A leader nobody heard of has now become a leader nobody wants.

The party’s precarious financial situation means it could struggle to fund a contest to replace him.

Members are leaving in droves, perhaps feeling that after the referendum result, it is job done.

The party now seemingly flits between being an irrelevance and a joke - sometimes both at the same time.

But those of you who want Ukip to completely disappear from the political scene shouldn’t pop the champagne corks just yet. 

Andrew Aitchison via Getty Images

There is a road back for the party which, for good or ill, helped deliver the greatest shake-up to the political establishment since Margaret Thatcher.

First of all, the party needs a product to sell on the doorstep. This should be easy.

Its core policy, indeed, in many people’s eyes, its only policy, is incredibly popular with the public. We know this because 17.4million people voted for it in the 2016 Referendum, and Brexit went from being a dream of political outsiders to policy of the Government.

But it is not a reality yet. Ukip’s version of Brexit is unlikely to be delivered. In the mind of Nigel Farage and others in the party, March 29 2019 should signal the end of free movement, the end of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the end of sharing the UK’s fishing waters.

We know that is not going to happen. Theresa May has already made clear she wants an ‘implementation period’ of around two years, with the UK/EU relationship continuing on the current terms.

This is exactly the kind of compromise Ukip can dress up as a Brexit betrayal.

And that is before the nuts and bolts of the future trade deal has been discussed.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week repeated the EU’s position that the UK needs to pay into the Single Market in order to get full access.

Should May cave into pressure from the City of London and other institutions to deliver as smooth a Brexit as possible, money could continue to leave these shores and head to Brussels.

That is another ‘betrayal’ Ukip could focus on.

As such, it could use the May 2019 local elections as a referendum on May’s Brexit deal, and once again act as a conduit for people to express their views on the Government in same way it did in previous regional votes.

Its mistake would be reverting back to the policies focused on under Paul Nuttall’s leadership: namely an aggressively anti-Islamist agenda, which includes such measures as the compulsory inspection of girl’s vaginas for evidence of female genital mutilation.

Ukip’s so-called ‘integration agenda’ was the centerpiece of its 2017 General Election campaign, and it was a disaster. The party has to ask itself: if the British people would not endorse such a manifesto in the wake of terrorist atrocities, including the Manchester suicide bombing, when will they?

The party needs to stick to what it does best: Brexit. 

PA Archive/PA Images

Having a popular product alone is not enough, you need someone who can sell it on the doorstep, in the town halls, and down the lens of a TV camera.

Is Henry Bolton the man to do it? This week he displayed something he had summarily failed to do so far in his leadership reign: a degree of political nous.

The party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, has been a thorn in the side of all the many leaders Ukip has had in recent years.

Farage described it as featuring “the lowest grade of people I have ever met” in 2016, saying his attempts to reform the party had been “fought at every step of the way by total amateurs”.

Diane James, who stuck it out as Ukip leader for a grand total of 18 days, says the NEC stopped her reforming the party in the way she had promised during her leadership campaign, and was one of the reasons why she quit.

With such antipathy directed towards the NEC, Bolton has decided to use the Emergency General Meeting called as a referendum not just on his leadership, but on how the party is run.

If he is able to articulate a message to members that supporting him will put more power in their hands, that might be an attractive offering which keeps him in his job.

Farage, who is still wildly popular with the membership, has indicated he is open to persuasion on this point, and could back Bolton when it comes to the crunch.

And let’s be brutally honest, more people now know who Bolton is after the Jo Marney debacle. 

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Bolton now has a profile. Ukip could use it to its advantage.

But the relationship with Marney has to be over.

Not just the “romantic part”, as Bolton claims, but all of it. No more cosy dinners together, no more being photographed on the tube, no popping-round-each-others-flats-to-pick-up-bags.

All of it.

Winning the vote at the EGM would not only invigorate Bolton, it could conceivably give what remains of the party a shake.

If it was able to get itself together – and considering the number of egos, factions and splits involved, that is a big ‘if’ – Ukip could still find a hearing in the country.

Or the party could stay true to form, and descend into a political knife fight in which all factions are left fatally wounded, leaving Ukip to bleed out.