Since Nigel Farage’s latest resignation as Ukip leader, it has become clear that he is the only person who can hold the party together. Without him, Ukip has become a seemingly endless brawl between various hostile factions.
Still, this leaderless mess has more supporters than the Liberal Democrats. That’s because Ukip, for all its flaws, has given a voice to those ignored in an overly centrist political debate — first Eurosceptic Tories, then working-class Labour voters. With decent leadership, Ukip could still do to the Labour party in the north of England what the SNP has done to it in Scotland.
Steven Woolfe might have been able to supply that leadership, had he not been hospitalised by a fellow MEP. He has now quit, saying that Ukip is over. It’s the perfect time, then, for Theresa May’s Conservatives to make a pitch; not based on a caricature of what Londoners think Ukip voters want, but on the basic appeal of conservatism. Political opportunities don’t come much bigger.
This article first appeared in this week’s Spectator magazine