We ought to be cheering the progress of UKIP. Despite its narrative of repugnant, racist rightism, xenophobia and the promotion of ignorance, bigotry and fear, its existence is provoking the idiots within the Tory party to reveal their true involved state, while at the same time undermining their electoral prospects. Farage's strategy appears to be to appeal to those who are even more gullible than Boris Johnson's acolytes - and to pretend to be the voice of bluff common sense beloved of the brain-dead tabloids. It may well work, at least in the shore-term.
Yet when you poke UKIP you discover a party that, without principles or policies beyond Little Englandism, is a receptacle for people deemed too deranged even by the Tories. Godfrey Bloom has been kicked out for not keeping his views on the domestic habits of women out of the press - and last weekend we had the pleasure of watching a UKIP Councillor from Boris's former enclave of Henley-on-Thames blame the recent spate of extreme weather on David Cameron's proposals to permit gay marriage. From the hysterical tone of the bigots you would have been forgiven for believing that he had intended to make it not merely legal but compulsory.
David Silvester has been suspended from UKIP, not for his views but for expressing them. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats have any sense in their campaigning going forward, they should embrace this - demonstrating that Farage would be quite happy to have any form of lunatic within his umbrella provided that they shut up. Farage is a demagogue who appears to be deriving much of his support from the same model that permitted Jean-Marie Le Pen to build up the Front National in France, building on paranoia, non-specific grievances and a fear of the other.
Deservedly, UKIP will be subject to more scrutiny over the months to come. Farage is trying to play the statesman, making ill-informed and economically-illiterate pronouncements. A recent statement on HS2 suggested that he believes that the funding of an infrastructure project is all up-front, rather than being less than the money being poured onto an annual basis into London's Crossrail project, from which it will neatly follow. He should support something that lets people get away from the evil Continent more quickly, although the welcome he has received in the North and Scotland may preclude this. The entire populist, victim-narrative he peddles is built on sand and playing to the sense of entitlement that his ghetto of the credulous laps up.
Between now and the General Election, the Tories will cosy up to UKIP's perceived support base, with a view to minimising their impact. This will come naturally to the hypocritical and the base who characterise the current leadership, who have had to disguise their views and behave in a mature way forced by the imperatives of coalition government. For all those who have tried to position the Tories as a party of general support, there are many more who will happily retreat into an ageing and middle-class redoubt, which given the state of the electoral map will result in 2010 being seen as a high-water point in Tory support.
Farage and the Tory right are deluding themselves into a belief that mobilising their own base will secure their futures. It may provide temporary reinforcement, but the trouble being stoked up through the property bubble, student debt, pensions robbery and the continued licensed rapacity of the financial sector is unlikely to provide the basis for either a march to power or the basis of a new consensus. Farage is the last twitch of the Thatcherite corpse, and one hopes that UKIP's tombstone will be at the correct angle to denote the lunacy that lies beneath.