Following defections to the Tories and the election of new leader Diane James, is Ukip a busted flush?

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UKIP Announce Their New Leader At Party Conference
Diane James has been elected Ukip leader (Source: Getty)

Ed Bowsher, deputy editor of Share Radio, says Yes.

Ukip was founded to take Britain out of the European Union. That’s almost certainly going to happen, so the party has no core purpose anymore. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she’ll take Britain out of the EU, and even if she wanted to change tack, a large bloc of Tory backbenchers wouldn’t allow her to do so.

What’s more, May’s move to back grammar schools should appeal to Ukip’s keenest supporters – elderly, angry votes who feel that London elites look down on them.

The party’s other big problem is that its leading figures struggle to behave like mature politicians. Two leading candidates for the leadership were disqualified from standing due to late submission of application forms. Nigel Farage and Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell have frequently bickered. And new leader Diane James has praised Vladmir Putin in the past.

When Ukip had a clear unique selling point, this immaturity wasn’t a fatal handicap, but for a party trying to carve out a new identity, it’s a very big problem indeed.

Andrew Blick, lecturer in politics and contemporary history at King’s College London, says No.

On the surface, it might appear that there is no further purpose for Ukip. The holding and winning of a referendum on leaving the EU might seem to be mission accomplished.

But the real position is more complicated. As is becoming apparent, formulating a negotiating stance to take to Brussels is a complicated and politically challenging process. It will be impossible to please everybody. Signs of a prolonged delay in triggering Article 50 may create an opening for a group outside the Conservative Party to exercise pressure on it: in other words, Ukip.

Furthermore, if and when a firm bargaining position emerges, if it seems to sacrifice a tough approach on freedom of movement in favour of maximising access to the Single Market, again there will be political space for Ukip.

To some, campaigns of this sort may seem irrational. But rationality has never been a key part of the appeal of Ukip. Indeed, it thrives on the opposite, and might continue to do so.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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