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.