I voted for UKIP once. Twice actually, now I come to think of it.
It had a mission. Indeed, it was more of a campaign than a political party. Its purpose was to persuade the government to whole a referendum on EU membership. It was fantastically successful. Without UKIP and, in particular, without Nigel Farage the vote would never have happened.
But since Farage’s departure from UKIP’s leadership, the party has changed. Brexit has become a side issue for them. Taking Islam to task has now become its main mission under a leader, Gerard Batten, who has taken the party in a totally different direction.
Fairly or not, UKIP is now seen as a party which tolerates Islamophobia. When Batten appointed Tommy Robinson as an official adviser, it triggered Farage, along with many others, to quit the party he was instrumental in forming.
But the straw that has broken the back for many others is the selection of Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad (no, really) as the party’s number two candidate in the South West. He has styled himself as an edgy social media comedy act who specialises in causing gratuitous offence.
Jess Phillips has been one of his main targets. Having said on Twitter he “wouldn’t even rape her”, he has since added that “under pressure I might cave” if he had a few beers. Gerard Batten and other UKIP luminaries have defended his conduct, saying that he was just being humorous. My sides are literally splitting.
Alongside a police investigation into his comments, there is now a Change.org petition, supported by Jess Phillips, calling for Benjamin to be banned as a candidate, and to change the law to ensure that people like him are not allowed to stand in future elections.
This is ridiculous. It is a fundamental democratic right for an individual, no matter how distasteful, to put themselves up for election, and I would defend anyone’s right to do that. What I do not defend, though, is UKIP’s decision to double down and stand by him. It is up to political parties who they endorse as their candidates, and the voters will judge them on that. I hope a damning verdict is issued when it comes to voting on 23 May.
Having said all that, let me for once say something nice about UKIP. Shock horror. Their slogan for the European Elections is “Tell them Again”. It’s inspired. Almost as good as “Take Back Control”.
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It’s all getting very messy. The 1922 Committee demands a timetable from Theresa May for her departure. She seems reluctant to give it. Then Graham Brady goes on TV to sort of tell us that she has given him a timetable – but that he can’t divulge it.
She’s now meeting the Executive of the 1922 Committee next week. No doubt she will just rehearse her ‘bear with me’ mantra and explain she’s still best placed to deliver Brexit.
I have no doubt she genuinely believes it herself. What else can she do? But given the worse than expected council election results, I fully expect these to be surpassed by a most dreadful night for the Conservatives on Sunday May 26th, when the European election votes are counted.
I think the Tories are unlikely to get more than 15 per cent of the vote, and the share may well be lower than 10 ten per cent. Could any Prime Minister survive that? I fear we are about to find out.
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‘Bollocks to Brexit’. That’s the title of the Liberal Democrat EU Election manifesto. This from the party that constantly bangs on about ‘grown-up politics.
OK, they’ll get some coverage on social media for it, but it won’t get a mention on broadcast media before the 9pm watershed, because ‘bollocks’ is a banned word. I get around it sometimes by using the word ‘grollocks’. Everyone knows what I mean, but no one can pull me up for it.
At least the LibDems have a consistent position. They normally cover a number of positions, so they can appeal to voters in different parts of the country but, on this issue, they’ve ceded that ground to Labour – which has become the party of Remain in the south and the party of Brexit in the North. Voters are starting to see through this ridiculous position, though.