John Harris

Journalist & Author

Farage and the UK Independence Party: the death of Ukip has been greatly exaggerated

Last week a Guardian Live audience debated the future of Ukip and discussed how far the party could go. John Harris says the idea of peak Ukip is fantasy, and were a long way off it yet

During the first seven months of 2014, a convenient fantasy took root among some metropolitan commentators. Whenever the UK Independence Party was the subject of a negative story, there were mutterings about peak Ukip, and the inevitability of its decline. The peak Ukip theory itself peaked over the summer when the partys runner-up position in the Newark byelection and a couple of months of relative quiet suggested it was in retreat.

I wrote in the Guardian at the time that anyone who assumed that this was the case was guilty of the kind of self-delusion common to four-year-olds and people on bad acid: If I cant see the monster, the monster cant see me, and all that. Because look what happened. On 9 October, the Conservative defector Douglas Carswell won the Clacton byelection for Ukip on 60% of the vote. The same day, Ukip came within 600 votes of taking Heywood and Middleton from Labour. In recent opinion polls, the party has consistently scored some of its highest-ever ratings close to 20%, according to some while combined support for the Tories and Labour has come in at record lows. If broadcasters have their way, Nigel Farage will be included in one of the party leaders General Election debates, underlining the idea that his party is now a major force in British politics.

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