That Nigel Farage’s third stint (so far) as leader of UKIP came about in 2016 might surprise few people, given both his tenacity and his popularity amongst the part of the electorate that he has firmly made his own: but the manner in which it came about would be dismissed as too far-fetched by the most imaginative of those who commission TV dramas.
Imagine the pitch. “We have a referendum about the EU, right – but we vote to _leave_. Then the guy who led the party that wanted it – charismatic, but upsets people, see – he stands down but the candidate who wins the contest to replace him (she writes “under duress on her nomination form – in Latin of course) – she quits in under a month so he’s back again. There’s this suave front runner to replace him but, get this, he’s punched out in the European Parliament by a no nonsense type northern MEP and so he quits the party, and then -” “Well, if I can just interrupt you, Dave…”
Such is the state of the party that won the last European Parliamentary elections in the U.K. Looking past the (to put it generously) unconventional process of leadership selection as 2016 has come to a close, the party faces a fascinating longer term existential question: either its raison d’etre has been removed and it faces a withering future, or it reinvents itself as a party that challenges Labour in the north in a way that the Tories haven’t in decades whilst simultaneously challenging the Conservatives in the south in a way that Labour never has. Paul Nuttall is probably the best man to lead them to option B, if anyone can pull it off. In the meantime, the party will regard itself as having a mandate to hold the government to account on Brexit – with a potential fourth innings for Nigel no doubt in the wings if that challenge is not met….
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