The path of kingmaker has not been a smooth one for Arron Banks, the donor on whom UKIP has come to rely.
His initial choice for leader, Steven Woolfe, has been excluded from the process, and while his fallback candidate, Diane James, is on course to win it isn’t at all clear what she’s going to do when she gets there.
James has bluntly avoided the main leadership hustings, refuses to talk about policy in public and, some UKIPers speculate, might not be completely convinced that she wants the job.
I’ve written before that while the biggest challenge for the People’s Army’s new leader is succeeding Farage, UKIP’s defining figure, but the second biggest challenge will be pleasing Banks. Without his backing, it is uncertain that UKIP could continue to pay its bills.
This is why my ears pricked up when I received a phone call last month from Leave.EU, Banks’s campaigning organisation.
As a registered supporter, would I mind taking part in a phone survey? Sure. How had I voted at the last election? (Standard stuff.) How would I vote if there was an election tomorrow? (Again, routine fare.)
So it proceeded until the last question, almost as an afterthought: do you think there’s space for a new political party?
Aha. Is the game afoot, I asked Banks. “You seem to have done your own research,” came the only reply.
Today we learn a little more – partially because some UKIP Leave.EU supporters have received the same phone call and misinterpreted it as some sort of push-poll in the context of the leadership race.
In response to these questions, The Times reports that Banks’s survey has found “almost 50 per cent” of Leave.EU supporters said yes to that final question. Banks himself says he might found a movement, a “Momentum of the right”, or perhaps a political party in his own right.
That sounds more than a little menacing for UKIP – if Banks finds that that Party won’t do what he wants, he could just set up a new one that will.