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UKIP have been on a roll, but their latest infighting shows they aren't invulnerable

By Mark Wallace
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UKIP_mag 3UKIP is no stranger to internal disputes. I can think of no fewer than six bouts of bitter in-fighting over the years, peppered with dozens of smaller factional skirmishes. It also has a disturbing tendency to banish rather than simply agree to disagree when faced with a difference of opinion. 

To a certain extent, that's a symptom of being a small party. Small ponds seem like an attractive residence to middling-sized fish cursed with whale-sized self-regard.

But UKIP's case has always seemed more pronounced than the tussles in other smaller outfits. Undeniably, a good part of that is down to Nigel Farage. 

The UKIP leader is certainly talented at what he does, but he has also risen to the top by dealing adroitly with various people who pose a threat. A keen fisherman, he hasn't been averse to a bit of angling when it comes to his rivals.

As we said in our "Getting to know U-KIP" series, that attitude has softened in recent years, particularly with his decision to allow some other party figures to share the media limelight.

However, there are signs that he hasn't entirely abandoned his old ways. Today it is reported that Will Gilpin, UKIP's Chief Executive, has left his job after only nine months, citing a fundamental disagreement with Farage as his reason for departing.

Gilpin was much-touted as the man to professionalise UKIP, taking it from its Godfrey Bloom-esque roots to the next stage as a more serious, consistent outfit. Instead, he says that he ran up against Farage's objections to the process: "I was not being allowed to do the job I was hired to do".

He told the Telegraph that an essential part of that job was that "Nigel has to have less power", warning that the Leader "does his own thing without the party knowing where he is or what he is doing". At the moment apparently UKIP is "structured like a flying wedge, pushing Nigel forward".

I'm sure numerous commenters will produce the word "smear" below the line, and/or explain that Gilpin was some kind of establishment fifth columnist within UKIP, which is the traditional approach when someone falls out with their leadership, but the tough reality for Ukippers is that he has a point. Farage's talents have got them so far, but he cannot do everything, nor will he be around forever.

As I wrote in May, loosening his grip on UKIP makes them "more successful as a party, appealing to different demographics and covering more ground as a team". That he has driven out someone who was their golden hire only nine months ago suggests that while Farage may be on a roll at the moment, his territorial instincts could still foul up his insurgency. Their rise has been swift, but they aren't invulnerable.


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