If there is one central fact that emerges from these elections it is that Ukip is dead. Norwegian Blue dead. It is deceased and fallen off its perch and shuffled off this mortal coil and so on because it has plainly ceased to serve any useful purpose. When you have secured an EU referendum (2013), and then won it (2015), you should really do the decent thing which is to declare victory and wind yourselves up (I mean in the corporate liquidation sense, not the irritate-the-hell-out-of-each-other sense).
Instead Ukip are hanging around the British political scene like a stale guff, and no one much appreciates it. Ukip is desperately trying to reinvent itself as some sort of populist movement to ban the burka. That’s really not got the same grand appeal as British sovereignty.
The other reason for Ukip’s collapse is of course that it didn’t just become a bit irrelevant but it became a joke. Nigel Farage was the star, and since the lead singer left, the Ukip band has been more than a little bewildered. Their leadership elections have been a shambles, literally a brawl on one occasion; the party has lost its sole MP in a bad-tempered row; it’s now losing scores of councillors; and, ironically enough, it will in 2019 lose its one electoral bastion – the European Parliament. When the Conservatives have become as hard Brexit as they are today, there is really little need for Ukip. They have become redundant, and they’re getting their P45s.
So, David Cameron’s policy worked then. When, on 23 January 2013 he pledged to hold an In/Out referendum on the EU, one of his principal motives was to contain a rampant and mortal Ukip threat to Tory fortunes, and then defeat it. Well, the wheeze has worked far better than anyone could have foreseen. Today, four eventful years and a Euro-referendum later, Ukip are being exterminated. Already weak in the polls, Paul Nuttall lacks all credibility and Ukip’s flagship election policy centres on an item of female clothing. No surprise, that. Ukip have been annihilated in all bar one council seat they stood for.
Well done, Mr Cameron. Perhaps you’ve been following the results from the comfort of a £25,000 luxury shed on wheels in some pleasant corner of rural England, or chillaxing in some sunny spot on the continent (which would be a cheek). Whatever, the Conservative Party is at its strongest standing in decades, set to win a convincing victory at the general election, if not a landslide, and the centre-right vote in British politics once again consolidated in safe Tory hands. The nightmare of Nigel Farage, now no more than a local DJ, is over. You may have lost friends and your job in the process, Mr Cameron, but your party will thank you. Praise be.
Of course there is the small downside to all of this, which is that the price the country paid for Tory hegemony (or “strong and stable government” as the slogan apparently goes) is potentially vast damage to the British economy, weakening our security and defences against terror, seeing Scotland more likely to leave the UK, and Gibraltar being handed back to Spain, among other things. It is a terrible old cliché, but it comes inevitably to mind at this hour, that David Cameron put party before country in those panicky days in late 2012 and early 2013 when he got spooked by the ’kippers. Even if he did not, and it feels uncomfortable to level such a charge at a man who seems patriotic and sincere, that has been the effect – a Tory party successful at the expense of the broader nation’s interests.
Plainly that has been the effect of the decision Cameron took in 2013, at least in the short to medium term. Now that he’s yesterday’s man, and a figure of interest to the media primarily for his taste in garden furniture, he is still worth a mention as we read the last rites of the ’kippers.
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