UKIP in British politics has been floundering, bleeding and panting for air since the final heave towards its long-awaited referendum victory in 2016. The celebratory and then repeated exit of its undoubted legendary leader Nigel Farage closely following the victory was nothing short of the spectacular one man band leaving the stage to a chorus of commendations. The man had essentially single-handedly convinced a nation to commit to the most important political decision in its generation, and his abandonment of the UKIP ship left the vessel with no real leadership, no real direction and no real hope. The side-shows of Diane James, Harry Hill Paul Nuttal and the deposed Henry Bolton have taken their turns to heave and breathe new life into the lungs of the party, but their efforts have clearly been futile. Everybody in UKIP was probably well aware that without Nigel Farage their party was done, ditched and dying, but Henry Bolton took a shotgun to its head and mercifully pulled the trigger.
But this is plainly for the best. It has added some necessary finality to a once world-shattering political force which has no business remaining in the margins of UK politics. Now that UKIP has undeniably perished, we can now at long last have the funeral.
But before we begin a sermon of UKIP’s demise, we should look upon Henry Bolton as a Judas figure: both the traitor and the catalyst for the beckoning euthanasia. They can both be understood as both saints and sinners for the same act; somebody had to deliver the blow, and in this case, Bolton did it. But this is not a death with a resurrection, unless a “second” referendum eclipses the twilight of the burial. Henry Bolton has given the UKIP mangled mess its goodnight kiss and it seems as if the last breath of the party has been exhaled. Should we not view him with some warranted negativity if he was the reaper of the earth-moving phenomenon of Nigel Farage and UKIP? We can justly see that Henry Bolton and his girlfriend have in one very obvious way stained UKIP with a helping of what many were pelting UKIP and their supporters with: the smear and sneer of “racism”.
While it was not Henry Bolton himself but rather his girlfriend that caused the scorn, the guilt by association point of view is rather strong, because what kind of person would remain in a relationship with somebody with undeniably racist viewpoints? Was her beauty really worth destroying a dying party, as well as a marriage, as I might tragically or ironically phrase it? The negative publicity that Henry Bolton faced for that would obviously have a serpentine grip upon UKIP because Bolton is publicly anchored to UKIP, or at least was. However, UKIP and its management’s weak link here is the fact that nobody cares anymore. If their share of the vote was already microscopic last year, imagine the monumental resolving power we will require to get a sight of their share of support today.
In fact, after all the party has been through since Nigel Farage left the party, not even he as their messiah can save them now. It’s not only due to the fact that UKIP have planked Bolton for his girlfriend’s pollution of the party image but merely the inevitability of the conservatives engulfing the Brexit issue after becoming the new Brexit agent. It is strange and bizarre to view the Conservatives in this light after the Cameron years, but it seems to be a fact: the Tories are now at the helm of Brexit. They have turfed out UKIP from their Brexit trenches and their troops have committed prudery. Even I did, after supporting UKIP since 2012.
Even as a person who views the two party divisions of UK politics to be the single worst aspect of our political system, I believe some parties deserve to be laid to rest. The UKIP train had reached its station in 2016. It would hardly make sense to expect the passengers to stay seated into 2018. The UK political scene is more diverse than only Brexit and, obviously, eventually UKIP are going to have to allow the Government to have their fight with Labour over this issue. It is at least an occasion of relief to reflect on the fact that the Conservatives are surprisingly on board with Brexit and are getting on with their duty as a democratic Government with some startling maturity.
If Henry Bolton continued to fly a ghost ship party through a wilderness and snipe the Government for perhaps not have total fidelity to the UKIP vision, the Brexit mission itself is only going to be made harder. Henry Bolton’s death-nail into the UKIP coffin is, in this vein, a victory for Brexit, because it has allowed Brexit itself to be fought with less turbulence from both wings. As the Government are well aware that the majority of the country (and perhaps even more than merely that today) are supportive of Brexit, do we really require UKIP to represent many of us anymore in this way? The problem with their election effort in 2017 was that the Conservatives had already “shot the UKIP fox” by backing Brexit and there was nothing that Paul Nuttal could do to stop this. Maybe this was what the Conservatives meant when they wanted to bring back fox-hunting. But this issue is at the very least only an issue in the sense that one of the main two parties in the UK were actually giving the people what they wanted in a democracy. It is just too bad for UKIP that “turkeys voting for Christmas” is a genuine analogy, not just within the EU parliament but also within UK politics generally.
If you steal another party’s very popular idea, you steal their limelight as an organisation, especially with their lack of electoral prospects. In that case, the idea of Nigel Farage continuing to hang around after Christmas as a half-eaten turkey would have been quite laughable. Henry Bolton, on the other hand, would have appeared to be less laughable and more eye-rolling as if it was a bad joke told one too many times.
Henry Bolton has put an end to UKIP, and UKIP has put an end to him. UKIP truly deserved to be put to bed after a long and arduous battle for a very genuine cause. But even legends need to disappear eventually after the battle is won with no further danger lurking behind the horizon. With a solid gang of Brexiteers within the current Government, we can now be sure that the Brexit course will be fought at least on a united front and not with a party, refusing to retire, upsetting the dignity of this legitimate cause, whether through racism on the one hand or through deafeningly speechless redundancy on the other.