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Ukip leadership hopeful Raheem Kassam is the only chance we have of destroying the party

Formerly Farage’s special adviser and now Breitbart’s 'London editor', he tweeted this about someone who has talked with sadness about fertility problems: 'Can someone just, like ... tape Nicola Sturgeon’s mouth shut? And her legs, so she can’t reproduce' 

Matthew Norman
Sunday 30 October 2016 17:25 GMT
Raheem Kassam, the second-favourite to lead Ukip, would alienate a large chunk of the party’s audience
Raheem Kassam, the second-favourite to lead Ukip, would alienate a large chunk of the party’s audience (PA)

Winter is coming, as the extra hour beneath the duvet confirmed, so it’s time for another episode of Ukip Game of Thrones.

A day before nominations close for the race to succeed Nigel Farage – the past, acting, present and surely future king – we turn to who will briefly inherit the mandate to turn the clocks back 60 years.

Once, it might naively have been expected that the post-referendum identity of a Ukip leader would be an irrelevance. Beyond entertaining us with the madcap antics, what point to a party predictated to leaving Europe could there be?

But Ukip has of course mutated into something larger and more disturbing than a single issue pressure group. Under Farage’s raucously adroit aegis, it became the repository of choice for resentment not merely about Brussels and immigration, but also post-recessionary hardship and general modernity.

UKIP leadership candidate 'would bring back capital punishment'

If a capacious dumping ground for disappointment qualifies as an idea, Ukip has become one. And ideas, as any cliché monger will agree, are notoriously difficult to destroy. And so, despite perpetually drowning in slapstick, ego-driven civil warfare and scandal, Ukip lives on. It may lack the ability to win many parliamentary seats. But it retains the capacity to drive the Tories to the right, and to hamstring any incipient Labour recovery in the industrial Midlands and post-industrial north.

It survives even though its latest leader, Diane James, lasted a marathon 18 days before resigning, while her likely successor, Steven Woolfe, left Ukip after apparently being attacked in Strasbourg.

How can anyone be shocked about that when Donald Trump, despite everything, remains a viable contender for the US presidency, and for the same reason: inchoate rage emanating from disappointed middle age is a stronger force than distrust or revulsion. Few of his supporters will vote for Trump with relish. They know him to be staggeringly ignorant, monumentally unprepared, and very probably dangerous. But what they crave a focal point for their disaffection.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, to the self-styled British Trump: Raheem Kassam. The second-favourite to lead Ukip is not a billionaire and, being the son of east African Asians, his skin is many shades darker than terracotta. As a 30-year-old with a full head of hair he has not invited an alien life-form to roost on his scalp.

One thing he does share with Trump, however, is an individualistic take on neo-feminist thinking. Another is a close relationship with, the seemingly race-baiting alt-right conspiracy-peddling site which provided Trump with a key adviser (Stephen Bannon) and has informed the spirit of his elegant campaign.

If newcomers desire a flash tutorial on Breitbart, check out the comments beneath today’s report about Barack Obama insisting that Michelle Obama lacks the patience to run for office. A few of the 1,100 posted so far, and very far from the nastiest, give the flavour: “She is as ghetto of a hood rat as you can get. This dumb tranny can't run a home, let alone America!”, “An angry black woman who hates whites and America with a passion, that's Moochelle” and finally “The Wookie is a piece of trash”.

Delightful stuff, and seemingly to the taste of Raheem Kassam. Formerly Farage’s special adviser and now Breitbart’s “London editor”, he tweeted this about someone who has talked with sadness about fertility problems: “Can someone just, like ... tape Nicola Sturgeon’s mouth shut? And her legs, so she can’t reproduce.” He gallantly describes Ukip leadership rival Suzanne Evans as “a wrinkly old ginger bird”.

Ordinarily, you could dismiss this Islamophobic Muslim, Trump-worshipping friendly acquaintance of EDF stalwart Tommy Robinson as just another attention-seeking alt-right huckster hoping to parlay a piddling knack for causing offence into a media career. But since Kassam is the choice of Aaron Banks, the insurance dealer with the £100m fortune who bankrolls Ukip, there is a decent chance that he will win.

I hope he does. Farage’s brilliance was in knowing just how far to push the faux-common sense robustness without crossing over the border into sheer brutality. Kassam’s main rivals, Evans and the favourite Paul Nuttall, would want to move Ukip towards the centre ground. That makes them more dangerous than a cocky chancer whose Breitbartian sensibilities would alienate chunks of the party’s target audience.

It’s unlikely that the winner will lead Ukip for long. It would be amazing, in fact, if anyone could last a year as titular head of this sub-Acorn Antiques pastiche of an abysmal political soap. Farage, forever the messiah, will eventually reprise his Liza Minelli impersonation by retiring from retirement again.

During the anguished wait for his next positively final farewell tour, we might try some comfort-clinging of our own – in this case, to the belief that the far right never prospers in Britain. Oswald Mosley had his moment, as later did the National Front and the BNP. They fizzled out, because the British public has never appeared to have a genuine appetite for extremism.

We cling to that faith more nervously than ever in times so surreal and uncertain that the prospect of President Trump looms large again. Winter may come to the US even while the autumnal leaves are still on the trees. If so, regardless of who gets to park their bum on Ukip’s iron throne, pray the weather system isn’t heading in an easterly direction across the Atlantic.

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