Today’s poll by Lord Ashcroft has once again put the Conservatives ahead of UKIP in South Thanet. Nigel Farage is now two points behind Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay and if that margin holds he will fail in his bid for the seat.
But perhaps the loss of Farage would take the party to the next level. At the heart of UKIP are two quite distinct factions: the Thatcherite defectors and RedUKIP, the authoritarian wing that is much more appealing in Northern England.
Farage is the poster boy for the Thatcherite defectors and so his views on areas like the National Health Service are not always in tune with the growing working class appeal. However next week UKIP might become a genuine challenger to Labour’s dominance in areas like Manchester and Sheffield.
For decades the Conservatives have tried to detoxify their image enough to mount a credible challenge in these cities, but it always proved to be a waste of time. If Farage departed, then the way would be cleared for someone like Patrick O’Flynn MEP to lead a right-wing populist movement in Labour’s heartlands.
O’Flynn does not have the charisma of Farage, then again no one does, yet his plan to forget the Conservatives and attack Labour could be a huge benefit in future elections. It also mean that the Conservatives would be able to concentrate on their Southern heartlands, safe in the knowledge UKIP would deliver a large enough number of MPs to form a permanent right-wing coalition.
If the Conservative brand is dead up North, why wouldn’t UKIP want to use that as an opportunity to gain a foothold amongst the disaffected? It is the big political opportunity of our era.