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Finding the next Farage: UKIP's leadership crisis


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This week saw another high-profile political resignation. The only saving grace about this one is that Nigel Farage is finally (hopefully) on his way out, but I wouldn’t hold your breath that he’ll be off the TV for too long...

But now the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) faces a huge dilemma. Who can replace Nigel? Whether you agree with his politics or not, it is difficult to find somebody in the political spotlight who has as much charisma as the former UKIP leader. His numerous appearances on question time, radio talk shows and even with Steph and Dom from Gogglebox have been, in my opinion, the making of the brand ‘Nigel Farage’ – so how can a party with a small amount of little known figures keep hold of their 3 million strong voting base with a new leader?

Yes, I know – I've raised a few questions already, but it shows just how difficult this choice must be.

Now I’m not just a politics student, I’m a current affairs geek as well. So even when someone who is as actively interested in the topic of politics as me struggles to name but a few UKIP front runners, I can imagine the rest of Britain would struggle just as much.

Now the obvious choice would have to be UKIP’s only Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, solely on the basis of him being the most senior member of the party with an electoral mandate. However, Farage gained a lot of his support through the image that he created of being an ordinary person separate from the political elite, who went and had too many pints at the weekend, made no secret about smoking cigarettes and stood up for the hard working British bloke (let’s be honest UKIP has basically ignored women). I doubt a position that once was held by one of the most outlandish and ear catching politicians could be replaced by Carswell, who may have the political acumen needed for the job, but has not come close to the outspoken persona that UKIP supporters have come to crave. If Carswell were to take the job then I think we may see a more auto-tuned message coming from UKIP and also possibly a much needed stray away from the topic of immigration.

And, fortunately, I think we’d see a decrease in their media presence.

Now we come to a small group of UKIP’s so called ‘Key People’ – who I promise you are even less well known than Carswell. Potentially the third most well-known UKIP member is Paul Nuttall. His consistently strong performances on question time have proved effective and his standing in the party is well regarded with grass-roots members, as he is one of three UKIP MEPs in the North West. However, as somebody that is ‘sceptical’ about climate change and who also wants to ban the burka in the public, I can’t see him capturing the electorate’s hearts, let alone their minds.

Then there’s Diane James, currently UKIP’s Deputy Chairman (according to their website). Despite a number of strong media performances, Diane lacks one thing that Nigel has in abundance and Carswell has the slight advantage over, which is essentially fame. Nigel Farage is a household name and, well, Diane James has a long way to go on that front, and that’s before we even consider the time that she said she ‘admired’ Vladimir Putin in an interview.

And finally, the last person from our bunch of ‘Key people’ is Roger Helmer, and for the 99% of the population that do not know who he is, he’s the guy with the snazzy moustache who they roll out on Question Time once every six months to make yet another offensive comment. One of his lowest moments was when he said this about rape: “The victim surely shares a part of the responsibility”; or how about when he said that homophobia “is merely a propaganda device”, designed to discredit those with “conventional” views. So, I think we can rest assured that Roger has as much chance of taking the leadership as a Romanian immigrant who is in a same-sex marriage.

So, unfortunately for fairness and equality, it looks like UKIP members will have a limited number of viable candidates for the leadership race. And even though I think it will not bring the party much electoral success, I do think that Douglas Carswell seems like the safest option. He may lose some of their core voters, but may possibly be able to branch out and appeal to more middle-class voters who are disgruntled by the Tory government’s policy of austerity, as Labour has proved hopeless in capturing this section of the electorate.

But sadly for fans of political circus and pantomime acts, Farage looks to have left the UKIP bus at his peak. Who knows, maybe even Nigel will throw his hat in the ring…again.

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