John Harris

Journalist & Author

Ukip may have collapsed, but where it led others will follow | John Harris

The party pioneered online activism and showed how anti-immigration nastiness can shape the wider debate

A walking ghost will be contesting next week’s local elections in England. Or rather, some of them. The party in question will be on the ballot paper in only one in eight seats: 75% fewer than it managed on the last comparable occasion, in places where the vast majority of its candidates now stand no chance of winning. Its most visible recent activity was a fundraising drive to stave off bankruptcy, after a grim mini-scandal centred on racist Facebook posts and texts sent by the girlfriend of a leader who managed five months in the job.

Such is the fate of what remains of Ukip: a force that, let’s not forget, attracted nearly 4 million votes in the 2015 general election, and spread no end of fear among Tory and Labour politicians. Along the way – and this may seem obvious, but is worth reprising – it laid the ground for Britain’s departure from the EU, and was a huge part of why David Cameron was panicked enough to call the 2016 referendum. Any schadenfreude, then, should be a kept to a minimum: for all that Ukip’s affairs now suggest closing time at a pub that has run out of beer, the people involved presumably take heart from the fact that they have achieved just about everything they ever wanted.

Related: Ukip investigates Peterborough candidate’s Twitter history

Related: HMS Brexit sticks it to the man – by tossing two dead fish overboard | John Crace

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