UKIP's candidate list for next year is now available, and a much depleted team it is too. Not only have they lost over 30% of their members since 2004 - now boasting between 16 and 17,000 members depending on which NEC member you ask - but only 5 of the 12 UKIP MEPs elected in 2004 will be standing for re-election.
Needless to say, not even UKIP would try to re-select Tom Wise while he is still being investigated by the police for expenses fraud, while convicted benefit fraudster Ashley Mote and the ubiquitous Robert Kilroy Silk departed the UKIP scene shortly after being elected. Added to these losses are South-West MEP Graham Booth who is standing down next month for family reasons, while Roger Knapman, party chairman John Whittaker and Jeffrey Titford have all stated that they will not be seeking re-election next year - although although Mr Titford's decision might have been prompted by his becoming the latest UKIP MEP to have his collar felt by Inspector Knacker.
The list of candidates includes a number of IND-DEM staffers - including Paul Nuttal, Ralph Atkinson and Gawain Towler. Other notable candidates include Marta Andreasen, the former European Commission whistle-blower, who recently took one of the most thankless jobs in politics by becoming UKIP's treasurer and accountant, who is on the shortlist for both London and the South-East, although it's difficult to imagine that the UKIP membership will want to select a foreigner to become one of their MEPs though).
It seems that UKIP have not been rushed off their feet by applicants, with a number of candidates short listed in two regions. Maybe they've been put off by the exorbitant cost of standing for the party - as UKIPwatch explained here, merely being selected as a UKIP candidate will cost you a cool £1050.
The short-lists are also light on celebrity. 5 years after Kilroy's media savvy helped UKIP get more exposure than was justified for a collection of fruitcakes and assorted right-wing nut jobs, there is a distinct lack of celebrity stardust, although Joan Collins will no doubt be wheeled out during the campaign. UKIPwatcher is also disappointed to see that neither 'celebrity chef' Rustie Lee or Day of the Jackal star Edward Fox are running, while disgraced former Tory turned U-kipper Neil Hamilton (he of 'cash for questions' fame) has also eschewed the chance to stand.. Instead it looks like we'll have to make do with the Earl of Dartmouth and Bishop Brennan lookalike Godfrey Bloom.
UKIP have struggled to make an impression in any election since their stunning result in 2004 when they comfortably outspent Labour and the Lib Dems. Despite claiming that they are no longer a single issue party, they fared abysmally in the 2005 general election, and local elections and were wiped out in the London Assembly elections this year - losing the 2 seats they won in 2004 and being comfortably outstripped by the BNP for the far-right vote. With a tiny membership, apparently meagre funds (although it is not unthinkable that Tory eurosceptic Paul Sykes will open his wallet to boost their coffers) and an uninspiring set of candidates, the indicators are that UKIP are a busted flush and will lose most of their seats next year.