Godfrey Bloom quits Ukip: exposing the paradox at the heart of the party

A self-image as maverick crusaders for the cause of “political incorrectness” is both intrinsic to Ukip identity - and a constant liability.

I've written an essay for this week's magazine about the position of Ukip in the political landscape, but in light of Godfrey Bloom's resignation, one section seems particularly relevant. 

The episode [Bloom's "sluts" row] exposes a paradox at the heart of Farage’s project. To establish Ukip as a permanent fixture of the political landscape he needs to turn the party’s high profile and double-digit opinion poll scores into representation on councils, in the European parliament and, eventually, Westminster. There is no way of doing that without imposing some of the organisational discipline that is the hallmark of serious parties. Yet much of the party’s popularity and profile has been won by rejecting the style and institutional apparatus that characterise professional politics. A self-image as maverick crusaders for the cause of “political incorrectness” is both intrinsic to Ukip identity and a constant liability. Farage has said he doesn’t want his party to come across as a “rabble” but that means foregoing rabble-rousing as a communications technique. And what does Ukip have without that?
 
Some of the younger figures in the party concede there is a tension between an ideological attachment to letting party representatives speak their minds and a pragmatic need sometimes to shut them up. It is all the harder because until recently party structures were very informal. There was Farage at the top, the members at the bottom and not much in between. “It isn’t an easy transition that we’ve got to go through,” says one thirtysomething Ukip official.
The full article will appear in this week's magazine, out on Thursday.
 
Godfrey Bloom has gone boom. Photo: Getty

Rafael Behr is political columnist at the Guardian and former political editor of the New Statesman

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Douglas Carswell leaves Ukip to become independent MP

The Clacton MP quits his party but insists he will not rejoin the Conservatives or trigger a by-election. 

Douglas Carswell has long been a Ukip MP in name only. Now he isn't even that. Ukip's sole MP, who defected from the Conservatives in 2014, has announced that he is leaving the party.

Carswell's announcement comes as no great surprise. He has long endured a comically antagonistic relationship with Nigel Farage, who last month demanded his expulsion for the sin of failing to aid his knighthood bid. The Clacton MP's ambition to transform Ukip into a libertarian force, rather than a reactionary one, predictably failed. With the party now often polling in single figures, below the Liberal Democrats, the MP has left a sinking ship (taking £217,000 of opposition funding or "short money" with him). As Carswell acknowledges in his statement, Brexit has deprieved Ukip of its raison d'être.

He writes: "Ukip might not have managed to win many seats in Parliament, but in a way we are the most successful political party in Britain ever. We have achieved what we were established to do – and in doing so we have changed the course of our country's history for the better. Make no mistake; we would not be leaving the EU if it was not for Ukip – and for those remarkable people who founded, supported and sustained our party over that period.

"Our party has prevailed thanks to the heroic efforts of Ukip party members and supporters. You ensured we got a referendum. With your street stalls and leafleting, you helped Vote Leave win the referendum. You should all be given medals for what you helped make happen – and face the future with optimism.

"Like many of you, I switched to Ukip because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving Ukip."

Though Ukip could yet recover if Theresa May disappoints anti-immigration voters, that's not a path that the pro-migration Carswell would wish to pursue. He insists that he has no intention of returning to the Conservatives (and will not trigger a new by-election). "I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent."

Carswell's erstwhile Conservative colleagues will no doubt delight in reminding him that he was warned.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.