6.30pm Update: I see that the Daily Mail has details of "the UKIP candidate who supports sharia law", plus more on some of the party's other candidates. None of the information is very recent, so perhaps the hand of Crosby is at work…
One former UKIP MEP, Ashley Mote, has been imprisoned for benefit fraud and another, Tom Wise, for expenses fraud. This is a rather bracing imprisonment rate for a Party that regularly scoops a dozen or so seats in Euro-elections, to say nothing of its highly competitive defection rate – step forward, Marta Andreason, David Campbell-Bannerman and Nikki Sinclaire – and novel worldview rate: one is spoilt for choice in this last category, so I will stick to the party donor who said that women wearing trousers exhibit hostile behaviour. It is therefore scarcely surprising that Lynton Crosby has been musing aloud about what might be found were the stone to be lifted beneath which UKIP's 139 local councillors are crouching.
The results will be entertaining. On a more high-minded note, the Conservative strategist should also cast a glance for what passes as UKIP's policy prospectus. As Tim Montgomerie pointed out at the time of the Eastleigh by-election, this essentially consists of a) the promise of huge tax cuts for everyone and b) the promise of big public spending increases – for pensions, for childcare, for the police, plus a return to student grants from student loans. The incoherence of quickly funding a mass of new programmes from a 31 per cent flat tax rate should bring a blush to the cheek of even the most convinced supply-sider: UKIP's manifesto isn't a so much a political programme as a wish list. And that, of course, is its charm.
UKIP is essentially a protest party – no more, no less. Its poll ratings are bound to come down as the election approaches, but the movement away from the two (no, the three) big parties is of very long duration and won't end anytime soon. Come 2015, UKIP is therefore bound to take more than the three per cent it gained in 2010. This will do more damage to the Conservatives than to any other party, which will suit Nigel Farage's strategic plan to break up and re-form the Tories with himself as a major player. David Cameron's best means of squeezing UKIP is to ensure that he stops teeing up Mr Farage's ball (as he did over same sex marriage) and that he plays his own best game as the leader of a party of government.
That means delivering the benefits cap and lower immigration numbers – not to mention a plan for leaving the ECHR. All the evidence suggests that the EU is not the main driver of the party's support – as I found when I first looked at the evidence and as Lord Ashcroft's polling also suggests – and that if any issue is key to winning UKIP voters back it is border control. In the meantime, I am free to show as much contempt for the party as I like, but I am only a writer, not the Prime Minister. Cameron would do well to broaden his charm offensive to include UKIP voters, with whom he should strive to kiss and make up. Elsewhere, Crosby, whose reputation Labour is haplessly helping to build up, will doubtless have his fun.