The surge in support for Nigel Farage’s party means the Tories are prepared for losses well in excess of the 350 seats forecast by election gurus Rallings and Thrasher. The figure of 800 seats that appears in today’s Sun can almost certainly be dismissed as expectation management but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the party, which currently holds 26 of the 27 county councils up for election, could lose between 500 and 600.
A cheery Farage was on the Today programme this morning, happily informing listeners that his party’s membership has risen by 50 per cent this calendar year. After another UKIP election candidate was accused of being an extremist (in this case, wielding a knife on the front of today’s Daily Mirror), Farage conceded that it “doesn’t look very pretty” but insisted that it was just one of “a couple of very bizarre cases”.
That doesn’t look very pretty, I agree with you, and we have had, out of our 1,700 candidates, a handful who have embarrassed us, mostly because they simply haven’t told us the truth, but we are the only party in British politics who actually forbid former members of the BNP or extreme organisations from even becoming members of UKIP, let alone candidates and, in one or two cases, people haven’t told us the truth.
He added, however: “We have done what due diligence we can at branch level – if people seemed to be very, very odd we didn’t accept them but we have taken people on faith. We don’t have the resources to trawl through absolutely everybody’s social media sites and that has led to one or two embarrassments.”
But it was on the tricky subject of tax policy that Farage came unstuck. After last week distancing himself from his party’s general election policy of a 31 per cent flat tax rate, the UKIP leader introduced us to the oxymoronic concept of a “two tier flat tax”. One was left with the impression of a man making it up as he goes along (and trying to have it both ways). But for now, ever more appear prepared to come with him.
Editor’s note, 31 March 2017: A reference to a named person was removed after police announced no further action would be taken in their case.