Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP were in good spirits (and, no doubt, a variety of other alcoholic beverages) on Friday after their success in the Rochester and Strood by-election. The Kippers now had two MPs, albeit in rather contrived circumstances. They had truly arrived. So, as with all grown-up parties, they now had to have a split.
Squeaky party unity finger up the bum time
Or perhaps that should be another split, because the Farage fringe have already had at least two of them: even as Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell was celebrating becoming the first UKIP MP, Farage was not only expressing opinions on immigration that Carswell, a true libertarian, could not possibly reconcile with his own, he was also making his infamous observations on HIV.
“Farage calls for ban on immigrants with 'life-threatening illnesses'... hours after being urged to show 'compassion' by new MP (whose father inspired Hollywood with treatment of HIV in Africa)” observed the Mail (Carswell père diagnosed the first cases in Uganda). The new UKIP MP was clearly uncomfortable with his leader’s pungent populism. Matters soon got worse.
Best of friends. Asterisk
Economics spokesman Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn then came under fire for the heinous crime of trying to make the party’s sums add up: being a former political correspondent, he knows that, come the General Election, the hard questions are going to be asked. Sadly, Farage makes up policy on the hoof, on the basis of who has his ear, or more likely his bar tab.
But at least “Lunchtime” appears to have survived the attempt to oust him from his post, perhaps because nobody else wants to go near it. Could the Kippers then make it three splits in a row? You betcha, says Sarah: even before the Rochester and Strood vote, Farage had a falling out with new man Mark Reckless over, you guessed it, immigration. Mr Thirsty had changed policy on the fly again.
“The policy changed on Wednesday and I'm a bit sore about how I came out of that ... Until Nigel changed it on Wednesday, the policy of the party was everyone can stay for the transitional period, no doubt about that, that there would then be a permanent arrangement which would be part of the EU negotiation” said Reckless, after Farage disowned his “send them all back” inference.
He then tried the lamest of deflections, telling “We don’t want any mass movements of people … I’m absolutely astonished that the Tories are twisting this in the way that they are”, but his problem is not his former party, but his new party leader. Farage makes it up as he goes along, while O’Flynn, Carswell, and yes, even Reckless, don’t agree with him and his rabble-rousing attitude.
Can the Kippers get to next May intact? I wouldn’t bet on that one, thanks.