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.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.