One of the interesting side-effects of the rise and rise of the so-called United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is that they can longer be the simple cult-of-personality outfit thay had all too comfortably slipped into once Nigel Farage had become their leader again.
Those who are familiar with both current and defunct outfits of similar origins – Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas and George Galloway's Respect in particular, though one can include several others including the rump-ends of the old Liberal party and SDP when the Liberal Democrats were formed – will no doubt recall that UKIP was also of this nature until around three years ago.
Then, when anti-Conservative movers and shakers realised that an Ed Miliband-led Labour party was never going to be able to dislodge David Cameron from Number Ten, they began to promote UKIP as they perceived that it was the only feasible alternative, working from the other side of the electoral equation to leech away the Conservative vote, rather than (impossibly) boosting the Labour vote.
How right they have been proven on both counts!
Awkwardly, UKIP was never really structured or even intended to become such a significant force in British politics as it is now having to face up to, and it shows. Quite apart from a number of other issues with the party – which are almost entirely of its own doing and its poor screening of candidates – the whole entity now resembles a Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer with all those add-ons hanging off the sides.
It still has the rubbery keyboard, which is bad enough, but it also has parts of its new self hanging on via electrical connectors alone, and the whole thing is dodgy, unreliable and distinctly intermittent. UKIP has had to bolt things onto its organisation, such as it was, to cope with entering the Big Boys' world. They are not coping very well, and it isn't surprising. It looks from where I sit to have been almost as devastating in practice as the Galactica's last jump in the recent TV series.
They of course will claim that everything is wonderful – just as Sir Clive Sinclair generally maintained about his products (and I have some tales I could tell about this from when we tried selling Sinclair kit for a short period!) which were, frankly, poorly designed, specified and manufactured.
Thus it can be seen that UKIP are in the unusual, perhaps unique, position of having been thrust into their current position, and are therefore not entirely to blame for their inability to handle themselves all that well. Their arrogant attitude, though, is their own doing and has made things a lot worse than they needed to be, it has to be said.
With dwindling support, as evidenced by consistent polling trends during the past six months, they will be lucky to have any seats in the House of Commons this Friday. Even Douglas Carswell could lose his seat in Clacton, though I have consistently said that this is an unlikely scenario. Mark Reckless will probably (and correctly) lose his, and Nigel Farage is unlikely to win the South Thanet seat – though anything could happen, of course!
In the next five years, if Labour change leader to someone at least reasonably competent, those anti-Conservative 'big voices' will then perceive UKIP as a potentially negative influence from their point of view, so will drop tham and they will fade back into obscurity. Perhaps the British electorate might even learn the odd lesson from this period from 2012 to (say) 2016 or so – who knows?