Today is the first day in a long long time that I have loved being in the Labour Party. Today is the day UKIP announced their new leader as Diane James. This is a great day for the official Opposition.
I have always slagged off Nigel Farage, but I have never underestimated what a potent politician he is. He bridges the gap between the blazer-wearing toffs of middle England and the working class pub talk of Essex and Kent. He is the Pied Piper to many of our constituencies. Yet his party rejected him and his political allure to Labour’s heartlands, in favour of respectability. Respectability? We should thank them. Labour will be laughing all the way to the polls.
Nigel claims he resigned, but the backstage row that proceeded his departure resulted in rule changes that made it impossible for his main rival, Douglas Carswell, to enter the leadership race, as well as also banning turncoat Suzanne Evans, Nigel’s former protégé, who publicly described him as a liability. This looks like far more than Nigel negotiating his exit forcefully. It looks like he was pushed out of the plane at 30,000 feet, but had the good sense to grab a couple of his colleagues to cushion his landing.
Having destroyed their options for competent future leaders, Ukip are left with someone called Diane James as the new figurehead. She is a former Conservative councillor from the provinces, who comes across as little more than a former Conservative councillor from the provinces. Perfectly inoffensive, but with nothing to say. That’s what they seem to want right now, and it suits Labour fine.
UKIP honestly thinks that racism damages their reputation. I feel the need to tap them gently on the forehead and tell them: “wake up and smell the coffee” Farage insists they are not a racist party but their councillors and candidates have been caught making racist remarks repeatedly.
Further to that, their timing is awful. It must be 20 or 30 years since Britain had much appetite for old-fashioned racism, presented under the legitimate guise of a well-to-do officer type, reminding us of the values that made us great.
Now I know what you’re thinking, surely they are honourable people for wanting to make UKIP legitimate, but if that’s the case then these people must be even bigger fools, because they joined Ukip and poured their lives into building careers in a party with no idea that its core value was a hatred of foreigners.
Many northern Labour MPs were worried about the effect of UKIP on their vote at the next general election. After today, they can rest much easier . This doesn’t mean that Farage won’t make a comeback at some point, but it’s fairly unlikely to be this side of the election.
If anyone fancies meeting me in the Dog and Duck for a pint, we can raise our glasses, this time not to Nigel, but to Ukip. May they long continue to fail to be a threat.