Ukip Don’t Have a Leadership Crisis, They Have a Membership Crisis
A few weeks ago on Twitter Ukip members from Nigel Farage’s own local UKIP branch of South Thanet attacked the BBC for imagined liberal bias. They accused the corporation of deliberately holding a poll about the party in front of a mosque. Unfortunately the building in question was not a mosque but Westminster Cathedral. Oops.
Back in October former BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Dean was heavily criticised for singing in a mock Caribbean accent in a calypso song he wrote in support of the party. Mike Dean withdrew the song after the complaints and said “I am so sorry that the song unintentionally caused offence. It was never meant to, and I apologise unreservedly.” In February the pink suited Gerard Batten, the party’s London MEP asked British Muslims to sign a charter rejecting violence. In 2010, UKIP’s former London Chairman Paul Wiffen stepped down from contesting Ilford South after posting a rant on the internet in which he mentioned “Muslim nutters” and “Romanian gypsies who beat their wives and children”. Of course, any paragraph on UKIP and racism is obviously incomplete without Godfrey Bloom’s infamous ‘Bong-Bongo land’ comment…
Recently Ukip have been hit with a storm of sex scandals. Roger Bird, the party’s general secretary, was accused of sexual harassment by Natasha Bolter (whose CV, it turns out, might contain some rather embarrassing errors). Ukip’s candidate for Bradford South, Jason Smith, sent a series of messages to a woman on his Facebook page asking to see her in a bikini. She wrote back that she could probably fit into his holiday suitcase, he replied by inviting her along. He even added a charming condition, ‘As long as I can sleep with you.’ When the Sunday Mirror questioned him about the incident Mr Smith responded ‘we all do it.’
The party has drawn criticism in the past for the behaviour of ex-MEP Godfrey Bloom, who called women ‘sluts’ at the party conference in 2013 and in 2004 said that “women should spend more time cleaning behind the refrigerator.’ There is also the infamous allegation that UKIP members once gave Nigel Farage a can of 7up for sleeping with seven women in one night…
Misogynistic and sexist? Tick. Tick. Tick. Underlined and Highlighted. Tick.
It is absolutely no surprise then that David Soutter, the man Ukip trust to vet potential new candidates said this week that half of his time was spent ‘weeding out the lunatics.’
So what are we, the voters, to make of this seemingly never ending parade of scandals; the miasma of sexism and ever present whiff of racism?
Unlike Ed Miliband or David Cameron, Nigel Farage has few problems with the rank and file of his party. Sure, there are occasional bust-ups and many grumble that the party leader has rather too much power. But he has not faced, and is unlikely to face a leadership challenge and enjoys strong personal polls. This is unlike David Cameron who, regardless of the result in May’s election will probably have to fight off challenges from Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Ed Miliband, whom the Labour Party back despite his truly dire personal poll ratings will certainly face leadership challenges if Labour fail to win next year’s election,
Despite his failings and vices, the problem with Ukip is not their leader. It is their membership; their councillors, MEPs and parliamentary candidates.
Unlike Labour last month, UKIP do not have a leadership crisis. They are battling something far more insidious and infinitely more difficult to cure. Ukip have a membership crisis.