The United Kingdom Independence Party has been on the decline for a while but it seems to be approaching a point of near collapse. Its peak was undoubtedly in 2004 when it achieved 16.8% in the Euro Elections, garnering 12 MEPs and pushing the Lib Dems into 4th place.
The party gained a handful of Councillors and two representatives on the London Assembly. Linked with a flamboyant character in former Labour MP and chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk, the party seemed to be on a roll. However, things soon began to go badly wrong. In 2004 Kilroy-Silk resigned the UKIP whip after criticising the leadership of fellow MEP Roger Knapman. He took the two London Assembly members into a new party called “Veritas”, from which he subsequently resigned.
Another MEP, Ashley Mote, had the whip removed in 2004 when he was convicted for benefit fraud and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment, and in 2007 Tom Wise MEP was suspended when he came under investigation from the European Anti Fraud Office.
On the plus side for the party, in 2007 two Conservative Peers defected to UKIP and they were followed in April 2008 by UKIP’s first MP Bob Spink who was previously a Conservative before being expelled from the party.
Since early 2008 reports have been coming in of internal turmoil in the party. Membership has almost halved from 26,000 to about 14,000 now. A number of branches have packed up and in the London elections they scored less than 2% on the London-wide vote, electing no Assembly members, unlike the BNP which elected its first member.
In late 2008 the party hit the headlines when celebrity member Buster Mottram proposed an electoral pact with the BNP for the 2009 Euro Elections to the UKIP Executive. This was not pursued.
Just last month the UKIP candidate for Stockton South defected to the Conservatives and today the Fenland Branch has disbanded and formed a new party. TV celebrity Robin Page has resigned and cited the dictatorial style of current leader and MEP Nigel Farage. There is an internal battle within UKIP between Farage’s supporters who want to make constitutional changes to extend his power to expel members, and supporters of former leader Roger Knapman MEP who oppose this change. If Farage wins I suspect that we will see more resignations and defections.
UKIP is now a busted flush and I will be very surprised if they manage to win more than 2 or 3 seats in this June’s European elections.