Nigel Farage on the campaign trail. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid
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Ukip's first rule: "Nigel always wins"

Nigel Farage has turned on his opponents.

Well that didn’t last long. Ukip’s post-Civil War peace has given way to another bloody day: Patrick O’Flynn has resigned as economics spokesman, issuing a groveling apology for calling Nigel Farage “snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive.” And Suzanne Evans has not had her paid policy development brief renewed, with Mark Reckless reportedly likely to replace her.

It is a reminder that what Nigel wants in Ukip, Nigel gets. Along with Douglas Carswell, O’Flynn and Evans are the alleged plotters who wanted Farage to stick to his original pledge to stand down after failing to win Thanet South. This is their punishment. Carswell, as Ukip’s sole MP in Westminster, is rather harder to attack.

And it is also a reminder of the shallowness of Ukip’s talent-pool. At the start of 2013, none of Carswell, O’Flynn and Evans were in the party; by the general election, all three were among the ten most important figures in Ukip. Such a rapid ascent is unthinkable in more established parties. It risks inciting jealously among Farage’s loyal courtiers – some of whom briefed against the ‘plotters’ – who resent being usurped.

Only a month ago, Farage let Suzanne Evans dominate the stage at Ukip’s manifesto launch. Evans produced a document that the press found impossible to mock. It was possible to imagine that moment as Ukip’s coming of age. Along with figures like Carswell, O’Flynn, Paul Nuttall and Steven Woolfe, Evans seemed to embody a party that would no longer be defined by its leader.

But for all his protestations about being a different sort of leader, the last fortnight has confirmed Farage to be a man who guards his power as zealously as Louis XIV. “L'État, c'est moi”, the Sun King once said. “I am the party,” Farage is now saying – and there is no danger of that ending anytime soon.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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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