On a slow news day reports of civil war within the upper echelons of UKIP were stoked by those keen to pronounce the political death of both Nigel Farage and the party he leads.
The BBC excitedly declared the party as being on the cusp of “complete chaos and civil war” but as events progress Patrick O’Flynn’s comments to The Times no longer appear as damning as they first seemed.
It is now clear that what was first spoken of as being an outright attack on Farage’s leadership of UKIP was more about certain advisers around him and the style of campaign they encouraged him to run. Speaking to Sky News hours after the comments were published, O’Flynn said Farage had been “poorly advised” but backed his leader unequivocally. Rather than characterising Farage himself as “snarling, thin-lipped and aggressive” he agreed that it was “the public face which too often during the campaign people saw” and not the reality. He also warned that such a face could damage not just UKIP but euroscepticism in general. O’Flynn continued:
“If anyone thinks or supposes that I am planning some kind of coup against Nigel they couldn’t be more wrong. He is my political hero and will remain so… He should serve the four year term, he should lead us into the referendum campaign, he should recapture the optimistic, cheerful, reaching out, cheeky Nigel Farage that is such an inspiration to me and I believe he can.”
UKIP Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall MEP, has also been forthcoming with support for his leader saying that with 200 new councillors and “4 million votes in the bag…more than any new political party in the post-war period” he has nothing for which to resign. Describing the recent elections which included the party winning its first council as a “gamechanger for UKIP”, Nuttall said “the majority of it has been down to our leader” and that he should “remain in that role in the years to come.”
Various political commentators have also given their view of Farage’s leadership of UKIP. Speaking to Sky News, Times columnist Tim Montgomerie identified Farage’s charisma and character as a primary reason for their vote share and for being “the glue that keeps the whole of UKIP together.” On the same programme Nick Watt of The Guardian predicted that Farage will be “the main figure in the No campaign” which will be legally constituted during the referendum campaign.