Pity poor Ukip, the party without a purpose. If you've read their website or any of their garish purple literature, you'll know that Ukip is a non-racist party dedicated to taking the UK out of the European Union in a non-racist manner that isn't at all racist.
Well that's happening now, which leaves Ukip in something of a bind. Either they have to give up and disband, or admit that they were never really about the EU, or even immigration, but instead have always been the party of the prurient, petty-English superego.
Ukip's secret manifesto, which you could find hidden in the gaps and grunts of its leading figures, had a comprehensive plan for a Britain in which not one branch of your neighbour's tree would ever be allowed to cross the invisible line into your garden, where cycling would be punished by hanging from the neck until death, where young people would be forced to listen to the spittle-spewing wisdom of their elders and grudgingly acknowledge that all that crappy music they come out with these days can't hold a candle to Jefferson Airplane at their prime, where nobody would dare to complain about golliwogs, and where, whisper it, don't shout, we could all finally talk about sending them all back home.
The whole point of the game was to pretend that this Utopia could be realised, if only we would get out of the EU; it was never supposed to actually happen. As any student of psychoanalysis knows, the worst thing that can possibly happen to idealists is for them to get what they want.
That's why Ukip is falling apart, right at its moment of victory. And while its corpse might soon birth monsters, for the moment, it's beautiful to watch. Trapped in its own success, the party is degenerating back into what it always was: a rolling, seething gang of red-nosed bankers, frustrated and violent.
First, its newly elected leader Diane James quit within days of being elected, citing a lack of support within the party; immediately, the vacuum she left sucked in a greased-up and grinning Nigel Farage who was forced to return as leader while a second leadership election takes place. He's trapped too, the Al Murray of party politics, some slightly dim posho who invented an ale-swilling stereotype that grew so popular it permanently untethered him from reality. There's no escape for Nigel Farage; he created an abstract and sprawling party machinery as the set-dressing for his character, and now he's plugged into it forever. Even if he didn't found it, Ukip was always be the Nigel Farage Show. He'll die with a pint in one hand and a fag in the other, still wearing that gruesome fishy grin, with only the faintest panic visible in his eyes until they finally go blank. Bury him at sea, let him bloat in the depths with all the other slimy translucent squids.
But obviously the most Ukip thing to happen this week was the punch-up outside the European Parliament. Steven Woolfe, an MEP and the party's front-runner to succeed Farage as leader (and then, inevitably, be replaced by him again) was sent to hospital after being punched by a colleague; the story goes that an argument broke out during a "clear the air" meeting over suggestions that Ukip representatives might defect to the Tories.
In that tense no-news period as the doctors scanned his brain for any problematic activity (they could have saved time by just noting that he was a Ukip MEP) Twitter liberals called for sympathy and respect, as if Ukip had ever shown any sympathy or respect for the people their campaign of don't-call-it-racism had left dead or beaten in the streets.
Woolfe is fine, still in hospital but unlikely to fall into that great dismal Middle England in the sky. So even if it had been tasteless to laugh about it before there's nothing stopping us now. This is how Ukip dies: its leading lights sprawled out on the floor, the party unmasked as the rolling nexus of fragile masculinity it always was.
It makes sense that the alleged assailant would be called Mike Hookem; a party with such a neurotically British commitment to putting everything in its proper place could only ever be ruled by nominative determinism. But Hookem, who denies throwing the punch, isn't the only one. There's Douglas Carswell MP, an overgrown teenage boy obsessed with Top Gear; Paul Nuttall, who has to be restrained from headbutting everything in sight; Nathan Gill MEP, a monstrous creature, half man and half fish; Jim Carver MEP, who leaves his victims in scattered pieces around the Belgian countryside; the list goes on.
But then we've been here before. Not so long ago, the BNP was a rising force in British politics: in 2009 it had fifty council seats, representation in the London Assembly, and a leader in the European Parliament. And then, suddenly, it disappeared; it dwindled away in a flash, its leaders forming rival and shrinking personality cults, locked in bitter internal struggles, until the party had desiccated into a gang of obsessive hobbyists.
Those BNP activists didn't just go away; all the petty fascism and revanchist resentment that had fuelled its rise was just rerouted into Ukip, a more respectable, media-friendly formation, one that could achieve things the BNP never could. Now Ukip is reaching the end of its usefulness, and Theresa May's conference speech – a fanatic's rant against meddling human rights lawyers and people who don't become fully and immediately erect at the sight of our nation's flag and all the other bugbears of the British far-right – was aimed squarely at their voter base. Ukip is collapsing, but it's collapsing into something. The next few years might see a those extremist energies swell up in the Tory party; all the same tawdriness and perversion, but with nuclear-armed submarines sulking through the oceans on constant alert, ready to blow up the world if it means getting rid of the neighbour's untrimmed hedge. It might take more than a punch to the gut to save us from what comes next.
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