Ukip is doing a very good job of convincing voters it is not a serious party. After days of shadowboxing over the use of Short money to fund the party in Westminster, its economic spokesman Patrick O”Flynn has broken cover to attack Nigel Farage — and he certainly isn’t holding back. In today’s Times, O’Flynn says the Ukip leader has become ‘snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive’, instead of a ‘cheerful, ebullient, cheeky, daring’ politician. He goes on to describe the week of turmoil since Farage quit as leader, before withdrawing his resignation four days later:
‘What’s happened since Thursday night, Friday morning has certainly laid us open to the charge that this looks like an absolutist monarchy or a personality cult. I don’t think that even Nigel would say it’s been the most glorious chapter of his leadership’
O’Flynn is careful not to blame Farage entirely for the situation. He singles out the ‘aggressive’ and ‘inexperienced’ team around him who have adopted a ‘Tea Party, ultra-aggressive American influence’. He calls for Farage to ‘clear out’ his operation and move to a ‘a much more consultative and consensual leadership style’. He points out:
‘The team around Nigel himself need to reflect why it was that Thanet voted in a Ukip council but didn’t vote in Nigel as the MP for Thanet South’
Although O’Flynn is careful to primarily attack those around Farage, this is still a highly personal move. There are two things to consider about why O’Flynn has blown this into the open. Firstly, O’Flynn is voicing the concerns of many in the party about the shenanigans that lead to Farage’s return as Ukip leader. Although Ukip did well to achieve four million votes and become Britain’s third biggest party, it completely failed to break into Westminster. Clearly there is support for the party out there, so why did they fail to return more seats? Some suggested the election was the end of ‘Farage-ism’ and, as with Nicola Sturgeon’s accession to the SNP leadership, a new figure could have stepped in and taken the party to greater heights.
Secondly, O’Flynn has been licking his wounds since the ‘Wag tax’ row at their party conference last year — during which he floated the idea of a luxury goods tax, only for Nigel Farage to step in and kibosh the idea. O’Flynn was left looking foolish and after this, he was sidelined from the leadership operation. Others such as Suzanne Evans took a much bigger role for example. His comments today could be seen as revenge for this shafting.
The question now is whether O’Flynn will remain as economic spokesman or whether we are witnessing the beginning of a leadership coup. Nigel Farage is due on Question Time this evening, so we’ll find out then how he feels about the criticisms. Like the other parties, you would expect Ukip to be examining why it failed to win more seats — be it a strategy or personality problem. But instead, it has been squabbling over money and a leader who broke his promise. Ukip is beginning to fall apart and it needs to pull its act together quickly if it wishes to remain a serious political force.
UPDATE: A senior Ukip source gets in touch to offer an explanation about why O’Flynn attacked Farage’s inner cricle:
‘O’Flynn is attempting to remove Nigel as leader by removing his protection in the party’