Mitch Benn : Why I can’t join in with the UKIP pile-on

Henry Bolton and Jo Marney. Photo: Twitter.

Henry Bolton and Jo Marney. Photo: Twitter. - Credit: Archant

Mitch Benn uses his most tortuous analogy yet to explain why he is not rejoicing over UKIP's downfall.

As I lurch ever further into sullen middle age (notched up another birthday this week; growing old sucks, but let's face it, it beats the alternative) I find myself taking refuge in nostalgia. BBC Four is rather overindulging me in this regard at the moment; they're repeating whole episodes of Top Of the Pops from 1985 and 1981. Hours of wallowing every week.

Watching one of the 1981 shows, I was reminded of an especially curious phase in the uniformly curious career of the great Adam Ant. In early '81, as Adam & The Ants were riding high as the colourful heroes of the pop scene with their bizarrely catchy blend of tribal drumming, '50s twang guitar and 18th century sea shanties, another batch of 'Adam & the Ants' singles started to appear in the charts which bore little musical resemblance to the ones that were getting all the airplay. This was because this 'Adam & The Ants' was, to all intents and purposes, a completely different band.

Stuart Goddard had formed a punk band with the name Adam & The Ants in the late 1970s; they released one semi-successful album on a minor label but failed to achieve mainstream success. The rest of the band (prompted by their legendarily Machiavellian manager Malcolm McLaren) decided that Stuart himself was the problem. But rather than kick him out, they all quit, (and immediately re-formed under the name Bow Wow Wow) leaving Stuart the sole remaining Ant.

Stuart re-christened himself Adam Ant, bought a vintage Dragoon jacket and painted a stripe across his face, rounded up a new band with a novel swashbuckling glam-pop vision, signed with a major label and went on to become the first great British pop star of the 1980s.

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Inevitably, Stuart/Adam's elevation to stardom tempted his old record label to re-release the previous iteration of the band's material, which promptly charted alongside the (very different) new band's output.

So in 1981, there were, in effect, two almost entirely different bands called Adam & The Ants having hit singles.

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I'd actually already been reminded of this episode earlier in the week, observing the ongoing travails of Henry Bolton and UKIP.

At time of writing – and this may have changed by the time you read this – Bolton is standing firm against the increasing calls from the decreasing ranks of UKIP to step down as leader, having been mired in the 'dumped his wife for racist girlfriend' scandal we discussed last week.

Amusingly, Bolton's colleagues on what for want of a better term we'll call UKIP's 'front bench' are responding to his obstinacy by resigning out from underneath him. Soon, Bolton may find himself the 1979 Adam Ant of politics; left alone owning the name of the 'band' while all his ex-mates regroup under a new brand (although it seems unlikely that Bolton will stage a roaring comeback as a hybrid Native American/Dandy Highwayman/Fairytale Prince any time soon).

Hugely entertaining though UKIP's self-immolation is, I'm afraid I can't join in with the schadenfreudefest currently being enjoyed by my liberal and progressive pals. If this is indeed the end of UKIP, my immediate thought is of course 'good riddance', but I can't help but remember why UKIP is imploding: it has become surplus to requirements.

UKIP is suffering the inevitable fate of any single-issue political movement that delivers on that issue; it no longer has any reason to exist. UKIP was called into being, ostensibly, for the sole end of convening a referendum on leaving the EU and then securing a win for Leave.

That objective, for good or ill (and by fair means or foul) has been fulfilled. There's literally no reason for UKIP to carry on now, unless it is to service what became its other primary purpose: that of constantly feeding and reinforcing the relentlessly needy and ravenous ego of Nigel Farage.

I'm almost tempted to bet a tenner that, when and if Henry Bolton finally gets the picture and quits, Farage nobly volunteers to step in as 'interim' leader. I'm fairly sure that he only endorsed a second referendum out of the blue last week because all these stories in the news mentioning UKIP – but not mentioning him – were making his skin itch.

But again, this is no cause for celebration. UKIP may be hobbled, it may even soon be gone, but UKIP's masterplan is alive and well and currently being carried out in full by both the Conservative and – to its shame – Labour parties.

So yes, on the one hand it is fun to see UKIP finally expose themselves as the motley collection of conspiracy nuts, xenophobic obsessives and racist cranks we always believed them to be, but it is a sobering, indeed, a horrifying thought, that it is the agenda set by these nuts, obsessives and cranks which the entire British political establishment has now devoted itself to enacting.

Still, it is not insignificant that even if it was just in a desperate moment of Look At Me, even Farage is now floating the idea of a referendum do-over. If we can get him to contemplate it, we can get anyone to contemplate it.

Keep resisting.

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