For all the celebrations last May from UKIP at ‘winning’ the European elections (on a very low turnout), and achieving an unprecedented 24 MEPs, those who had seen it all before were instead mentally marking up the odds of how many UKIP MEPs would be left by 2019.
Anticipation and history suggested strongly that the tally won’t be good. UKIP’s track record of keeping and maintaining MEPs is remarkably poor. To lose one or two maybe careless but to lose over half during the last Parliamentary session suggests a far more serious problem within the party.
And it’s in this context we note that the Telegraph reports that UKIP MEP Bashir has defected to the Conservative Party:
One of the UK Independence Party’s most senior politicians has defected to the Conservatives in a major blow to Nigel Farage’s general election campaign.
Amjad Bashir, a Ukip MEP and the party’s leading Asian figure, told The Telegraph that Ukip had become a “party of ruthless self-interest” that was incapable of delivering a referendum on membership of the European Union.
Interestingly the Mail also reports the defection with a different headline emphasising perhaps there was a different motive:
A senior Ukip MEP has defected to the Conservative Party as it emerged that he was suspended pending investigations into ‘extremely serious financial and employment questions’, the party said.
With two contrasting accounts for the defection it’s naturally difficult to say for certain which report would be the most accurate. However given that the Mail’s ‘breaking news’ piece had a link to the Telegraph website (which it very rarely does and is now removed) would indicate that Telegraph were planning this for a Sunday scoop. Thus all the signs suggest that having got wind of the defection the Mail has been briefed as a spoiler from sources close to Farage.
Whatever the true reasons though we can only agree with much of Bashir’s analysis of UKIP:
In a damning broadside against his former colleagues, he described Ukip as “pretty amateur” and condemned its “ridiculous” lack of policies. He said the party was “delusional” about its chances of winning seats in May.
But the facts are clear, UKIP participated in the European Elections with no manifesto, and despite reassurances to its supporters by Farage leader that there would be a fully costed one by the 2015 general election we see little sign of one. Even here its deja vu all over again:
Ukip’s policy chief has quit just six weeks ahead of the party’s manifesto launch in February.
Thus UKIP candidates are being thrown into an election campaign with no party policies; a betrayal of those who have to campaign on doorsteps and in hustings meetings. No wonder many of them (maybe in frustration) are in absence sending out to the electorate the 2010 version which was dismissed by Farage as drivel.
So with a general election impending UKIP’s catalogue of bad press is increasing substantially. Much of it self-inflicted is now entering its third month and shows no sign of letting up. It’s clear there UKIP has significant problems which particularly suggests a deep dissatisfaction with the leadership.
Any idea that UKIP will hold the balance of power or even help the eurosceptic cause secure a referendum is looking wildly over-optimistic.