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24 September 2013

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.

By Rafael Behr

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.
 
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