Another day, another stumble in UKIP’s search for a successor to Nigel Farage. Raheem Kassam, who only launched his campaign as the “Faragest of the Faragist” candidate on Friday, has crashed out of the race this morning. His official statement cites fundraising problems (allegedly Arron Banks only offered moral, not financial, support), complains of the pressures of media scrutiny and – in keeping with his inspiration, Donald Trump – questions the integrity of the election process. Having bailed on the race, a “friend” of Kassam’s has told Michael Crick that he is now hoping to secure a job in a Trump White House.
Given that Kassam was the second favourite this is a further confirmation that UKIP is, in the words of Banks, in a “hell of a mess”. While the leadership race struggles on, the party is losing both its focus and a fair few of its members. It also risks losing the opportunity to capitalise on the disgruntled former Labour voters who backed Leave and dislike Corbyn.
There are two theories of who ought to be in the Lords.
The first was laid out in the Coalition Agreement, which stated that appointments should be made “with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election”. That was a somewhat odd concept at the time, and looks odder now that the Lib Dems continue to hold a disproportionate share of the seats despite their 2015 collapse. But if you buy it then UKIP ought to have a good deal more than their current three peers – all of whom they have gained by defection rather than appointment. If they did gain new Lords, Farage certainly has a right to be first on the list.
The alternative, more widely accepted, theory is that an appointed upper chamber ought to be the repository of the most prominent, senior figures from the nation’s public life – the top scientists, the most accomplished lawyers, the most successful business people, the highest trade union leaders and, of course, the elder statesmen of each political party. It seems absurd that a House constituted along those lines would not have Farage as a member, given his prominence not just in his party but in national politics and his impact on the nation’s direction. Yes, UKIP might well collapse in the near future, but that hasn’t prevented Shirley Williams, Paddy Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and other big beasts from the Lib Dem menagerie reposing on the red benches despite their party’s troubles.
So of course Farage ought to be appointed to the House of Lords. There’s even an obvious candidate for his territorial designation – he could take the name of a picturesque little seaside village in Devon. Arise, Lord Farage of Beer.