THE BLOG
09/05/2014 07:22 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 06:59 BST

Is UKIP Maturing or Mutating?

There have always been people in politics that prefer ideological purity to the compromises that need to be made to have a broad appeal. These are the people who would rather have a row than get a result. These are typically the people who flocked to UKIP, and now UKIP is increasingly finding them a liability too.

The party leader stands to give a speech. The party's media experts know full well that almost no one will listen to the speech live and in full. A few might watch it online but they'll mainly be the party faithful. The vast bulk of any potential audience will only see a photo in news reports, at a push a few seconds of video. They know that most people will only get a snapshot.

Knowing that a snapshot is all they have to play with and that a picture says a thousand words the spin-doctors arrange for a number of Asian and Afro-Caribbean candidates and activists to stand beside and behind the leader as he gives the speech. You might not take the time to hear what is being said but the message is clear, "look, we have the support of black and brown people too".

It is just the kind of politically correct, pandering to the urban liberal elite, gimmicky media stunt that you would expect from the tired "old parties", the kind of thing that UKIP rails against. Straight talking, tell it like it is, call a spade a spade UKIP. But wait a minute, the party leader in question isn't Cameron, Clegg, or Miliband, it's Nigel Farage!

Recently UKIP has had a number of its candidates and elected representatives say things that embarrass the party leadership, let's be generous and assume that these comments have also embarrassed the party as a whole. But all parties have people who say things under their banner which are embarrassing. All parties encourage their candidate's and activists to sing from the same hymn-sheet and if someone goes completely off message and says something offensive they are sanctioned and sometimes expelled. It's what established parties do.

But UKIP sold itself as not being like the other parties, it was a cornerstone of their appeal. Indeed in February this year Nigel Farage said to the UKIP conference in Torquay "People will make the odd mistake, we are not politically correct and I would rather lead a party where, perhaps, the odd person said something that doesn't conform to the current PC climate in this country"

But after UKIP's election broadcast star Andre Lampitt said some pretty vile things about Muslims, Africans and Ed Miliband, a UKIP spokesman (or is it spokesperson now?) said "UKIP is not a party that believes in public debate and conversation being stifled by an obsession with political correctness" and promptly suspended Lampitt from the party.

There have always been people in politics that prefer ideological purity to the compromises that need to be made to have a broad appeal. These are the people who would rather have a row than get a result, who would tell association selection panels that they are wrong about everything and then wonder why they aren't getting selected. These are typically the people who didn't got on in their former party and flocked to UKIP, and now UKIP is increasingly finding them a liability too.

Clearly there are those in UKIP who want the party to be seen as a serious entity, not least of those is Nigel Farage himself. They want to get elected and they want to get others elected alongside them, and they see the racist, homophobic and sexist rants of some of their party as hugely detrimental to those aims. So Nigel Farage's speech, with his phalanx of minority ethnic faces, was a pragmatic fight-back against the dogmatic party that he has inadvertently built.

So what is happening to UKIP? Depending on your viewpoint it is either maturing or mutating.

If this period of UKIP's history was a book would it be To Kill A Mockingbird, with Scout and Jem Finch realising that the world isn't as simple as they once believed, they mature and become more sophisticated as the rough and tumble of life knocks off some of their sharper corners?

Or is it more like Animal Farm with Napoleon and Snowball gently but surely abandoning their principles and beliefs until they are indistinguishable from those they once sought to overthrow?

I'll leave you to decide.