There was a lot with which to agree. In particular, the ‘failure to explain’ has been an enormous failure on UKIP’s part. UKIP has done a terrific job of channeling the discontent that many Brits feel with Brussels, but has been very slow to explain how the UK could extricate itself from the EU: it is not a matter of one leap and John Bull is free. Eventually UKIP came round to agreeing that Article 50 of the EU Treaty was the correct mechanism (which it is) but has said very little about what comes next. Fear of what lies ‘outside’ has filled that vacuum. The politician who has gone the furthest to remedying that politically catastrophic gap, is a Conservative, Owen Paterson, drawing, at least in part, on the painstaking work of EU Referendum’s Richard North. It’s dull stuff, but essential.
Where Mr. Humber is wrong, I think, is in his assumption that a focus on Brexit and Brexit alone was the best way to get the job done. If the Tories could have been convinced to endorse it (which was, I reckon, what Farage originally wanted), UKIP could have declared victory and returned to the Conservative fold. But the Tories would not endorse Brexit and, as things currently stand, are never going to do so. That left UKIP only one alternative, to go it alone and get into domestic politics, first at the local level (where it has had quite a degree of success) and then, even more difficult, make its way to Westminster. It has long been clear that campaigning on Brexit alone was not going to do that, thus the need to broaden UKIP’s appeal, something that, whatever you might think of some of its policies, the party has certainly succeeded in doing.
Here’s a result to consider from tonight, Houghton and Sunderland South, northeastern, working class, and solid Labour territory. In 2010 the Tory took 21.4% of the vote. UKIP grabbed 2.7%, making a combined total of 24.1%. In 2015 the Tory won 18%, and UKIP’s share shot up to 22%, for a combined total of 40%. Food for thought surely?
We now wait to see whether Farage will win in Thanet South (as I write, the gossip on Twitter is that he won’t). There he has chosen to play for very high stakes indeed, saying that his political career would be over if he lost, an invitation to tactical voting (against him) and setting the stage for the disastrous scenario you describe:
[I]f Farage himself loses his bid — the papers will be full of “Farage Falls” stories, and his enemies will make it seem as if his EU project and his parliamentary ambitions are one the same. That, I’m afraid, will be extremely damaging to the cause.