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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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.