The Shard, Mordoresque. Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
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Commons Confidential: Clegg learns the Shard way

Rees-Mogg's history, taxation mystery - and an early warning from South Thanet.

The donors’ and tax avoiders’ ball held by the Tories at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London may raise more cash, but no constituency blowout is likely to attract a bigger crush than the party thrown for Virendra Sharma. The fundraiser to re-elect the Indian-born former bus driver as Labour MP for Ealing Southall was attended by 1,200 people. The guest of honour was Tom Watson, who, back when class politics was fashionable (that’s 2007), sent limos and activists dressed as waiters with silver trays to hound David Cameron in the by-election won by Sharma. Watson’s a heavyweight in more ways than one in the eyes of local Sikhs. Last year, he exposed evidence suggesting that the Thatcher government’s hands weren’t entirely clean of the 1984 massacre at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Tessa Jowell also spoke. I’m told that Sadiq Khan wasn’t formally invited but turned up. Surprisingly, David Lammy didn’t gatecrash the throng. Those present will have votes to pick Labour’s candidate for mayor of London.

No votes have been cast yet but an informant says the clerk’s office is preparing for a possible Ukip triumph in South Thanet. Should Nigel Farage be elected, he’ll be buddied up with a senior official to teach him the ropes. Word has now reached nervous Commons staff.

A Tory grandee grumbled after MPs were given 15-minute “Tesco time slots” in the robing room of the House of Lords to admire surviving copies of Magna Carta. The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, ribbed Jacob Rees-Mogg at the opening ceremony by suggesting that the young fogey was at Runnymede when King John and the barons agreed on peace. Rees-Mogg took it with good grace. This human relic from a bygone political era sounds as though he’d have been in long trousers 800 years ago, having fought William the Conqueror in 1066 and greeted Julius Caesar when he came ashore in 55 and 54BC.

Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander were wrong to think they’d gone up in the world when they held a Lib Dem press conference on the 52nd floor of the Shard. The party’s failure to check if people could broadcast live from such a height proved problematic. The correspondents who’d trudged over from Westminster, including the BBC’s Norman Smith, were forced to descend to street level to deliver the Yellow Peril’s news. What goes up must come down, as Lib Dem polling since 2010 makes clear.

“She won’t shed any tears if he loses.” Of whom was a prominent figure in the Tory firmament speaking? Sam Cam. Millions of Britons would share her reaction, should Call Me Dave be granted more time to reminisce about his days in the Bullingdon Club.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 13 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Assad vs Isis

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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