Update Oct 5th: Now that Diane James has sensationally quit as leader, Steven Woolfe is once again the bookies’ favourite to lead the party.
Could this be UKIP’s chance to make good?
Original article, August 3rd:
UKIP the straight-talkers, UKIP the everyman’s party, UKIP the bastion of common sense.
For years now the party has rallied its supporters around these ideas. Only we, they seemed to say, are free of the venality, high-handedness and insider dealings that so riddle Westminster politics.
So how on earth can that square with their decision to eject frontrunner Steven Woolfe from their leadership race, allegedly for no darker sin than submitting his application 17 minutes late?
Statement: I am extremely disappointed by the UKIP NEC decision to exclude me from the party’s leadership election. https://t.co/6eiWV9DQGv
— Steven Woolfe MEP (@Steven_Woolfe) August 3, 2016
With the possible exception of MEP Diane James, the remaining six potential successors to Nigel Farage are people nobody will ever have heard of.
To be honest, Woolfe was hardly a national figure either, but poll after poll showed him likely to trounce his rivals by a comfortable margin.
According to the members of UKIP’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which include MP Douglas Carswell and several MEPs, it was the failure to submit his online papers by noon on Sunday which ended Woolfe’s candidacy.
But the piranhas were swirling already. Claims put about by rivals suggested that Woolfe was ineligible because his party membership had lapsed briefly.
Details of a drink-driving conviction were also leaked to the press. One gets the feeling that, push come to shove, any of these three reasons would have done it for Woolfe.
Many of the NEC's current crop are among the lowest grade of people I have ever met. https://t.co/uvaTw4Jnqq
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) August 1, 2016
And so, a popular candidate has been laid low by bureaucracy. UKIP becomes the party of rules and regulations, of “computer says no”, of zero common sense.
It is a move absolutely of a piece with Labour donor Michael Foster’s unseemly attempt last week to unseat Jeremy Corbyn – but with darker consequences.
For any party this would be an unedifying spectacle. But for the ramshackle people’s army of UKIP it is a betrayal that’s seemingly impossible to reconcile.
Barely a month ago, UKIP was in the vanguard of one of the most dramatic triumphs over the Establishment in living memory.
Today, the party of Farage’s vaunted “honest, decent people” has shown itself no different from those they purport to despise.