UKIPwatch was as shocked as anyone else by Nigel Farage's decision to resign as UKIP party leader. Farage has always been a slick media operator and performer and has always been effective as the presentable non-barking mad version of UKIP. Politically, he is essentially a hard-nosed, hard-right Thatcherite and a professional politician to his core.
However, after shocking most attendees of UKIP conference (including UKIPwatcher herself) by announcing with astonishing chutzpah his intention to challenge House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to be MP for Buckingham, Farage decided to throw in the towel on UKIP.
In his speech, Farage stated that it was "important for UKIP to get a voice in Westminster", and he is right (the fiasco over Bob Spink MP and whether he did/didn't defect to UKIP) demonstrated that UKIP need to be more careful about who they choose to ally themselves with.
The point is that a Westminster seat would give UKIP more visibility. It wouldn't make any difference to their influence on the political scene. Nobody in the European Parliament takes UKIP seriously, and their MEPs are bone-idle (with the honourable exceptions of Marta Andreasen and Paul Nuttall).
Still, Farage may not be party leader, but he will still lead the UKIP, Lega Nord and assorted crackpot political group in Brussels and Strasbourg. He will also, no doubt, still be their main media performer.
But the sheer chutzpah of telling the world that he will be standing as a 'clean' candidate, untainted by any expenses scandal, is beyond belief. As UKIPwatch has mentioned before, at least five OLAF investigations were launched against UKIP MEPs in the last five years, while UKIP elected MEP Ashley Mote was imprisoned on multiple counts of benefit fraud and former UKIP MEP Tom Wise is currently standing trial for a range of financial offences including money laundering. The notion that this party is 'clean' is unbelievable - UKIP are the most crooked party in British politics.
Moreover, who will take his place as UKIP leader? The obvious choice is Paul Nuttall. Although a new MEP, Nuttall is party chairman, also standing for a Westminster seat, and quite media savvy (although he does have the unhappy problem of physically resembling a young Benito Mussolini!) He would probably be Farage's choice.
Other options include, from amongst the MEPs, David Bannerman and Nikki Sinclaire, both of whom have proved themselves to be effective campaigners, while former Tory peer Lord Pearson of Rannoch has already announced his intention to stand. The rest, frankly, are either too old or too stupid.
In any case, dear reader, the chances of Farage (or indeed any U-kipper) of winning a seat in the Commons are pretty damn remote. UKIP have never finished better than third in a Westminster seat, and Farage himself could only poll 8% of the vote when he stood in the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election in 2006.
And, if that wasn't enough excitement, you can now see how the party membership intend to vote at the wonderful 'Democracy Forum'.