The dwindling and increasingly desperate convocation of saloon bar propper-uppers otherwise known as UKIP proved their genteel sensibility over the Manchester bombing by being the first political party to resume campaigning yesterday, when comedy party leader Paul Nuttall, aka the Bad Bootle Meff, stood before the press - and some of his more vocal supporters - to remind the world that Kippers were toughest on Scary Muslims (tm).
As ITV News observed, UKIP “has put public safety and immigration issues back to the top of the political agenda … The main focus of the manifesto launch was security and the threat from radical Islam … Paul Nuttall promised an extra 20,000 troops and 20,000 extra police”. He also claimed that the manifesto had gone to press before the Manchester attack. It certainly plays on voters’ security fears.
After Nuttall “said he favoured a ‘far more muscular approach to social integration’, wants to ban the burka and said he made no apology for repeating his claim that radical Islam was ‘a cancer that needs to be cut out’”, he had more pearls of wisdom to dispense. “‘It is not good enough to light candles and proclaim that extremists will not beat us,’ he insisted … ‘Action is required on multiple fronts’”.
And with that, he and manifesto author Suzanne Evans tried to play down the suggestion that they were somehow blaming Theresa May for security failings which may have made the Manchester bomber’s task easier, while making it clear that they really did blame Theresa May for what happened in Manchester - well, perhaps.
The questionably argued presentation then descended beneath farce as the assembled media representatives pitched their questions. Nuttall and Ms Evans were more than happy to field them - the problem was that the UKIP supporters in the room did not approve of anyone suggesting that their manifesto, and their great leader, were anything less than Very Wonderful. The heckling spilled over into direct abuse.
So that might have been that, except that later in the day the first post-Manchester poll, a YouGov one for the Murdoch Times, showed that the Tories’ lead had come down to a mere five points. Their vote share was now 43%, with Labour up to 38%. That would translate into an overall majority for The Blue Team of just five seats - in other words, if accurate, the Tories would actually lose ground compared to two years ago.
Why should UKIP have any influence on voters after such a farcical manifesto launch? Simples. The Tories’ numbers have been reckoned to have been swelled by voters deserting the Kippers. If enough of those voters now conclude that Theresa May isn’t as serious as Nuttall and his pals about security - with their promise of more Police and troops - then they might think about moving back to UKIP.
That means the Tories and their press pals could end up fighting a war on two fronts - continuing the barrage against Jeremy Corbyn on the one hand, while having to fend off UKIP on the other. Politics, as ever, remains excellent spectator sport.