After the series of ups and downs UKIP has experienced over the last 12 months, it seemed like they had finally found their man in Paul Nuttall. His witty, combative tone and genuinely working class credentials are the ideal characteristics for a leader of the Kippers, and he has been presented with the chance to prove his worth with the whole country watching, in the Stoke by-election.
Things have not gone to plan for Paul. There are no two ways about it; so far, Nuttall’s by-election campaign has been a waking nightmare. It’s hard to say what the worst moment has been, but the shortlist includes: the revelation that Nuttall has never been to the house he registered as his official address; Nuttall’s admission that he did not lose any close friends at Hillsborough despite what it said on his website; the subsequent resignation of Nuttall’s press officer; and the reports that have surfaced in the Huffington Post that Nuttall and Farage have now had a serious falling out and aren’t speaking. Take your pick.
UKIP have been a major force in British politics for a few years now, but despite their populist appeal, have never managed to seem like a fully professionalised and competent outfit. There have always been gaffes, there have always been controversies and there have always been internal fights (sometimes literally!). If Nuttall’s aim was to change this perception of UKIP, then so far he is not doing a very good job.
Let’s be clear: He might still win. Stoke is one of the most pro-Brexit places in the country – ripe territory for UKIP. Polls are suggesting a Labour victory is more likely but UKIP remain firmly in second place. If he wins, most people will forget the clumsiness of the campaign and Nuttall will be given great credit by everyone in UKIP for doing what Farage never managed to do. But if he loses, the inquest will truly begin. Many will argue that a huge opportunity for UKIP was lost by an incompetently run campaign.