It was refreshing of Lord Pearson to admit, as he resigned as leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party on Tuesday, that he is ‘not much good at party politics’. If only other party heads were so candid. Most politicians are too scared of making a gaffe to say anything so interesting. They would rather prevaricate than commit the political sin of looking bad on television. Not so Lord Pearson, who, in the run-up to the general election earlier this year, admitted to the BBC that he had not read all of Ukip’s manifesto.

Lord Pearson’s unusually frank style means that he has been dismissed in the media as an old-fashioned eccentric with kooky right-wing opinions. Yet far from being a dotty old peer, he is in fact a successful businessman and philanthropist. Throughout his political career, he has exhibited a firm commitment to free thinking and democratic principles.

In the 1980s, he was a fierce cold warrior who funded dissident groups in the Soviet Union. He went on to become a forthright opponent of the European Union and Islamism. The irony is that in admitting to not being cut out for modern politics, he has shown us why he is just the sort of public figure that Ukip, and this country, needs.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated