Despite an election campaign that is shaping up to be dominated by Brexit, the UK Independence Party is languishing in the polls and seems even less likely than usual to send any MPs to Westminster.
The simple reason for this is that Brexit is no longer their issue: it’s now in the hands of Theresa May and Leave voters increasingly back her to deliver it. All that’s left of UKIP is an authoritarian husk of a party, searching for relevance by proposing to ban the burka.
“No-one has the right to dictate what people should wear,” said top Ukip MEP James Carver before resigning as the party’s foreign affairs spokesman in protest over the policy. It seems the party can’t even launch a policy these days without inflicting injury on itself.
Douglas Carswell won a by-election under the Ukip banner in Clacton, Essex, but recently severed links with the party and became an independent before announcing he would not be standing for parliament again. With Carswell’s resignation Westminster loses a genuinely thoughtful and independently-minded MP while UKIP loses its only semblance of parliamentary representation.
The party, which undoubtedly played a major role in bringing about last year’s referendum, is now not much more than a plaything for its former financial backer, Arron Banks – and even he appears to be losing his enthusiasm.
Banks let it be known he intended to stand in Clacton before announcing that, on reflection, he won’t be. He also criticised the party’s broadside against Islamic practices as a “war on Muslim religion”. If we look at these internal disputes and weaknesses against the backdrop of the current polling position we find a party that resembles a band who used to be big but now struggle to draw a crowd.
They’ll never recreate their hits and the public’s appetite has moved on. The Tory poll surge is not just down to the collapse of the Labour party.
Ukip landed 13 per cent of the 2015 vote in Wales, for example, but now languish on just six per cent as eurosceptics fall in behind May – whose party is on course to take 20 Welsh seats. It seems that for the ‘kippers, the party is over.