EU Referendum

UKIP: the beginning of the end


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"I have decided to leave Ukip because it has become a vanity project for Nigel Farage and because many of the criticisms made of the party are true", says Amjad Bashir. And after having defected to the Tories, he tells the Sunday Telegraph that Ukip had become a "party of ruthless self-interest", was "pretty amateur" and had a "ridiculous" lack of policies.

He says: "After almost three years as a party member, I realise that Ukip is more concerned with furthering its own interests as a political party than delivering for the British people. I've seen Ukip both at home and abroad, and I'm sorry to say they're pretty amateur. In the European parliament, some of their MEPs think it's acceptable to shout and fool around".

"They think they'll sweep up dozens of seats in May, but that's delusional. What they are in very real danger of doing, however, is making a big enough dent in the Conservative vote to let Labour in".

And then from Mr Bashir, we get the view that "Mr Farage wants to use Ukip as a means for getting power for himself, and that is not what the party was set up to achieve". Bashir goes on to say: "He has created a populist image for himself as the jolly chap at the bar with a pint in his hand, but the reality is different. He runs the party like a dictator, employs people who are totally inappropriate for party positions and gets rid of anybody who stands in his way".

This we have heard so many times, from so many sources, and here it is again. Presumably, this is "sour grapes" on the part of Mr Bashir. But then, after Ukip got wind of his defection, it decided that their MEP was a bad'un and the Tories are welcome to him.

Either way, it's a lose-lose for the cultists. If he's as bad as they make out, he should never have got anywhere near the MEP short-list. But then, he was Farage's protégé, needed as a token Asian to "prove" the party's race-free credentials, so it's down to The Great Leader once again.

But, if Bashir is clean, then this is a coup for Cameron, and Farage is on the back foot as the twittersphere goes into orbit. Then, of course, Bashir could end up proving a liability for everybody - even if he's right about Ukip. The points about amateurism and the "ridiculous" lack of policies smacks of the truth, irrespective of the source they come from.

They are augmented by comments from Matthew Richardson, party secretary, who blithely informs us that Britain has "hundreds of thousands of bigots" and Ukip is proud to stand up for them - then dismissing claims that Ukip candidates with bigoted views would alienate voters. He boasts that "the party will speak up for those with hard line views".

This is the man who, in a speech to a Conservative political conference in Washington in 2010 declared: "The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS, the National Health Service".

Then, at a Young America's Foundation meeting the same year he denounced "wasteful socialist programmes" and said: "At the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism is the National Health Service". Richardson added: "People as a result of privatisation ... of the NHS will do better. That's a battle that we have to win the hearts and minds of people".

So far, then, we have a party which is not only fooling itself but determined to squander political capital on an unwinnable battle, neglecting the core issue of leaving the EU. It comes unprepared to the referendum, with a reputation for wanting to privatise the NHS. If there was a better way of losing ground, I would really like to know what it was.

And that is on top of the Now Show on Friday, BBC Radio 4, which ran the stirring Ukip anthem, "We're making it up, we're making it up as we go along!". The message is getting through - it's been a long time coming, but it's finally getting through.