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  • Lawrence Bailey

Ukip moves from fringe to far right

As it dawned on a disbelieving media two years ago that a majority had voted to leave the EU, a question sporadically posed by bleary-eyed commentators to each other was: “Where does that leave Ukip?”

For erstwhile leader Nigel Farage it turned out to be a hasty cheerio and memory lapse regarding promises printed on the side of a bus. For his party, it’s been a succession of short-lived leadership stints and a remorseless decline in the polls.

Despite exploiting the dividends of proportional representation and the local protest vote, Ukip has been notably unsuccessful in making a breakthrough at Westminster. Recent wipe-outs have reinforced a perception among the punters that the party has reached its sell-by date.

With the EU gravy train about to be derailed, there are a limited number of future options left to its current national leader, Gerard Batten. Even so, few considered the recruitment of far-right proponent Tommy Robinson as ‘party advisor’ to be one of them.

Indeed, the consequent kerfuffle – including a threatened comeback by El Farrago himself - has allowed an unrelated influx of social media ‘champions’ into the ranks to go almost unnoticed.

These combined events have prompted a few in the left-wing press to speculate that Ukip is ripe for some old fashioned insurgency. This, they assert, will see the emergence of a well-funded movement with something more sharply defined than muddled ideology and casual racism.

It’s a nice theory although the problem is that the amount of media babble about the ‘alt-right’ often makes it hard to distinguish the fake news from the real fake news.

There’s no doubt that the organisational angst that plagues the party has been mirrored in Wales. Coup and counter-coup has reduced the number of Ukip AMs in the Senedd from seven to four. The best that that can be said about latest leader Gareth Bennett is that he seems genuinely disinterested in the Welsh Assembly and its future.

A colleague of mine insists that whatever the future holds for Ukip, it will continue to hold enduring appeal for those who see no contradiction in demanding freedom of expression on social media so that they can threaten physical harm to anyone wearing a white poppy.

I’ve yet to find evidence to dispute this view.


Goodwill to fewer than ever

A famous statesman once expressed an opinion that nothing says more about a government than how children fare under its term of office.

So what does it say about claims that more than 100,000 children in the UK live in families facing debt and hardship over Christmas because they are waiting for a universal credit payment?

That figure may be an estimate by one of the UK’s biggest housing associations but it’s probably a more accurate assessment than you will get from ministers who seem to be in permanent denial.

According to the Peabody Trust, claimants who signed up after 20 November will not receive any benefit until after the festive period because of the built-in wait of at least 35 days for a first monthly payment.

They believe most of the households that move on to the system over the next few weeks will be forced to borrow money to see them though until the new year. This includes 67,000 families collectively looking after an estimated 116,000 children.

Clearly goodwill is going to be in short supply this year.

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