They used to be the laughing stock of UK politics. Yet on 23rd June they achieved their ultimate goal – to leave the EU. So what remains for UKIP?
Many will hear UKIP and immediately cast their minds back to those homophobic and racist comments that have dogged the party in the past. Two particular incidents come to mind: the link between gay marriage and flooding by David Silvester and Godfrey Bloom’s infamous reference to ‘Bongo Bongo Land.’ Despite their bloopers, Nigel Farage and his Eurosceptic entourage succeeded in what many thought to be an impossible dream.
With Farage’s work complete, he vacated the golden throne of UKIP triggering yet another laborious leadership election plagued with in-party turmoil. The executive decided that their only MP was illegible to stand having only been a UKIP member for two years whilst once favourite Steven Woolfe was banished from the ticket having missed the deadline. The importance of the new leader and indeed the very existence of UKIP however, must be questioned – after all, haven’t they achieved their single objective?
Or maybe not? We hear Theresa May harp on about how “Brexit means Brexit” but on what terms? A single market? Free movement? It is rather clear from the referendum campaign that UKIP don’t want anything to do with the European Project. UKIP require a leader who possesses the temerity of Farage to petition to government for a clean exit on the terms of Britain’s leading Eurosceptic party.
Despite only commanding one seat in the 2015 Westminster election, UKIP gained a respectable 13% of the vote. This support combined with the Brexit vote represents a disenfranchised electorate who don’t necessarily vote upon economics and policy but rather rhetoric with a strong air of anti-establishment. Remind you of anyone? Yes, Donald Trump seems to have used a similar platform of dislike for the political system to gain support. Opinion polling has proved that this banner is certainly attractive for the working class who see a political system that has failed to rescue them from the struggles of daily life.
Will any new UKIP leader succeed in gaining any more seats in Westminster? Or is their main function now charting a Brexit on their own terms with Westminster representation being seen as a lost cause with the disproportionate nature of first past the post? To achieve either of these goals, they must find a leader who shares the audacity of Farage – the poster-boy of the anti-establishment.