Nigel Farage’s departure comes at the best possible time for Ukip. The party could be hoovering up votes from Labour’s heartlands which voted for Out in surprisingly large numbers in the referendum. But since that result, figures in Ukip had been feeling dismayed that their party seemed angry and disorganised, unable to reach out to those Labour voters. Farage spent most of the referendum campaign behaving badly, almost trying to sabotage his own side, before conceding that Remain had won just hours before it became clear that Leave had won.
Now there is an opportunity for the party to re-brand as ‘Newkip’, taking a more optimistic stance. Douglas Carswell, who earlier tweeted a rather happy emoji in response to the announcement, tells Coffee House:
‘I’m inconsolable. Nigel deserves a lot of credit for getting the referendum and I wish him well.’
Carswell has previously been rather cool on the idea of leading the party, and indeed still has a threat of being kicked out hanging over his head. The other prominent candidate, Suzanne Evans, is still suspended from the party which will make standing for leader more difficult. And I have picked up rumours of a plot against Paul Nuttall in the past few days too. But the major obstacle to the party moving on has gone: now its challenge is to install someone who can genuinely appeal to those angry Labour voters.