UKIP: The End
This weekend UKIP moved further towards its long-expected demise.
The party’s only MP Douglas Carswell quit UKIP yesterday to become an independent. Two days earlier one of Carswell’s many factional enemies – former UKIP donor Arron Banks, who is a close associate of ex-leader Nigel Farage – asked the party for £200,000 payment for call centre and membership processing services that he had previously provided free.
Banks was effectively suspended from UKIP membership a few weeks ago for criticising the party’s new leadership, and not unreasonably he now asks: “Why on earth am I going to donate the service for free. I don’t think so. So – yes – there is a bill in the post for the thick end of £200,000.”
UKIP’s most recent by-election outing was in a seat which should be very winnable if the party were to succeed in its stated aim of challenging Labour as the voice of the White working class. In Higher Croft ward, Blackburn – where the BNP once polled 29.6% and in 2015 UKIP managed 33.3% – UKIP candidate Ian Grimshaw was a distant runner-up to Labour in Thursday’s by-election, polling 22.6%.
Mr Grimshaw obtained 169 votes in Higher Croft: precisely one hundred votes fewer than the England First Party’s Ian Lofthouse received in the same ward a decade ago. Many UKIP councillors are voting with their feet and deciding not to stand for re-election.
Arron Banks is clearly planning to set up a new organisation. It is still unclear whether this will take the form of a political party, and whether former members of parties such as the BNP or NF will be allowed to join. Most ex-members of racial nationalist groups and some anti-Islam outfits such as the EDL have long been excluded under UKIP’s constitution.
Last year UKIP leadership hopeful Raheem Kassam (an ally of Banks and Farage) argued that the party should change this policy and accept some former BNP members and others previously excluded.