Farage resigned in order to focus on his personal campaign to win election to the House of Commons. I find this entirely in keeping with the self-serving nature of many key figures in Ukip. Farage had been entirely successful in making Ukip appear a single-issue party focused on pure, unadulterated euroscepticism. Although personally a europhile, I see the vital need for a new beginning, a rethinking, of the European project, that it embody the best principles of our continental commonality. Farage is a slippery character, wanting his party not to be seen as unduly right wing. When Ukip members were bigoted, racist or sexist, Farage would say that were merely acting in their personal capacity and not speaking for the party. This included Pearson’s invitation to Geert Wilders to show his islamophobic shock-doc at the House of Lords (first time round improperly blocked by Jaqui Smith, then Home Secretary).
The quite moderate success of the BNP in securing two seats at the last European Parliament election has been variously interpreted as what it means for Labour and Conservatives. However, no one seems to have thought about what BNP’s campaign means for Ukip. Ukip’s core vote comes from disaffected Tories, generally on or to the right of that party. Although Brussels hatred remains as ever, the defining policy of this range of the political spectrum is anti-immigration. It seems that a number of senior Ukip members saw the BNP’s surge as a sign that they can speak out on policies that had previously been seen as too controversial and vote losing. Then it is no wonder that islamophobia is tacitly now on Ukip’s agenda with the election (helped by Farage’s imprimatur) of Malcolm Pearson. Ukip is on course to try and get the vote of the BNP voter who desires to switch their vote to a more ‘respectable’ party, while retaining their racist and xenophobic prejudices.
I hope the British media see this coming and are ready to challenge Ukip thoroughly and prevent the party from hiding its true nastiness.