Lord Pearson resigns from Ukip leadership

The peer says he is “not much good” at party politics, as Nigel Farage refuses to rule out running a

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who defected from the Conservatives in 2007, is to step down from leadership of the UK Independence Party after less than a year in the job.

In his resignation statement, Pearson said that he was "not much good" at party politics and that Ukip "deserved a better politician . . . to lead it".

Few would argue with that, after a generally poor election campaign. Pearson's credibility was damaged particularly badly in a disastrous interview with Jon Sopel, in which he appeared to be unfamiliar with his own manifesto:

 

 

 

The 68-year-old was elected to the position after the previous leader Nigel Farage stepped down to focus on contesting the Speaker John Bercow's Buckingham seat at the general election.

Farage, who suffered severe injuries in a plane crash on polling day, did not rule out throwing his hat back into the ring. Speaking on the Today programme, he said:

I'm not going to say I'm absolutely not going to do the job again, but I've got to decide in the wake of that accident whether I'm strong enough to take the job on.

The other problem is I'm still leading a group in the European Parliament in Brussels, can I do that and lead a party in the UK?

In an overlooked aspect to this story, Pearson has given some indication of what he will do next: he wants to spend more time with his dogs and family, and focus on his "wider interests". This rather random list of interests includes -- wait for it -- "the treatment of people with intellectual impairment, teacher training, the threat from Islamism and the relationship between good and evil".

Pearson's preoccupation with Islam has been well documented (click here for more details of his unpleasant rants on the subject). But intellectual impairment? Treatment?! I, for one, eagerly look forward to seeing how Pearson pursues these goals.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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