It’s less than two hours into Ukip’s Spring Conference in Bolton and already the cracks are starting to show. Although Paul Nuttall promised to unite the party as leader, his predecessor Nigel Farage has set the cat among the pigeons with a speech on the future of Ukip.
The former leader said he was concerned that ‘too many people’ in the party now wish to turn their back on the bold strategy of ‘thinking the unthinkable’ and ‘saying the unsayable’ that got them where they are today:
‘This party succeeded because we had guts, we had passion, we were brave. But now I sense there are too many people in Ukip — whose jobs and positions have come directly as a result of that bold strategy — who are now urging Ukip to become mainstream.
Now I will say this, it’s nice to be popular. It’s good to be invited to all the right social set parties in London and I guess it is easier in life to be thought of as being nice rather than one of those unpleasant populists. But this attitude is not Ukip. Ukip is a radical party — or it is nothing.’
Farage made further murmurs of discontent in the hall after. While he refrained from naming names in his speech, it appears to be a reference to the likes of Patrick O’Flynn, Suzanne Evans and Douglas Carswell — former foes, who have all been helping Nuttall in the Stoke by-election. It’s worth noting that Evans exited the conference hall just as he began to speak. In response to the speech, one party figure points out to me that perhaps life isn’t so bad for ‘unpleasant populists’ given that of all the Ukip politicians, it’s Farage who gets the best party invites.
Farage, too, may have said a bit too much for Nuttall’s liking.