Nigel Farage has promoted a slew of women to senior roles in his reshuffle of the Ukip front bench. Diane James, who came close to winning the Eastleigh by-election, becomes the party’s home affairs and justice spokesperson. Louise Bours, a newly elected MEP, takes on the health brief. Her job will be to rebut Labour claims that Ukip wants to privatise the NHS. I understand that she’ll be emphasising Ukip’s commitment to a universal national health service free at the point of use. Jane Collins, who stood for Ukip in the Barnsley and Rotherman by-elections, becomes the spokesperson on employment. While Jill Seymour takes on transport and Margot Parker small business.
There’s also an emphasis on blue collar voices in the reshuffle. The party’s new defence spokesman is Mike Hookem, a former RAF man and Yorkshire MEP. Paul Nuttall, the party’s deputy leader, takes on education.
This reshuffle has two aims. First, to show that Ukip is not just a one man band — that there’s more to the party than Nigel Farage; second, to shake off the party’s reputation as a home for disaffected Tories. This new team is meant to show that Ukip is more than the political wing of the golf club bar.
The big challenge for Ukip is to find a way to keep up its momentum between now and May. It has to find a way to make itself part of the general election debate if it is not to get squeezed in 2015.