Saturday, 8 October 2016

Moneybags at dawn

The spectacle of Ukip MEPs brawling was highly entertaining but it didn't tell us very much we didn't know already. It's a party fuelled by the raw emotional power of hatred, blame and seething resentment, so people with poorly-controlled anger management issues were always going to buzz straight towards it, like flies to a cowpat. There's a bit more fun to be had from watching the ongoing regression from parliament to playground ("He hit me!", "No I didn't and, anyway, he started it!"), but the punchy stuff is just more of the same old, same old, Ukip just being Ukip.

The issue that provoked the punch up / handbags at dawn slap fight might point to something less obvious, though. The substance of the squabble was the suspicion that Steven Woolfe, who had already flirted with the idea of jumping ship to Theresa May's reassuringly xenophobic, Brexit fundamentalist Conservative Party, might actually defect. The defection of the odd MEP wouldn't be very significant in itself, but it did make me wonder whether a more substantive change of allegiance is on the cards, given two things we do know about:

  1. The May government is frightening a lot of people in the City, and in big business more generally, by signalling that the need to be tough on foreigners and tough on the causes of foreigners trumps everything, even the profits of big business. For a party funded by wealthy corporate donors that's a precarious position to be in.
  2. Ukip is overwhelmingly funded by a few rich ex-Tory donors.

Imagine, if you will, that a few of the businesspeople currently funding the Conservatives decided to turn off the money tap to an ungrateful government that seems determined to plough full steam ahead into a profits-busting hard Brexit. The party that was actually set to deliver the Brexiteers' most cherished dream could be defunded.

What would ex-Tory donors like Paul Sykes and Stuart Wheeler do then? Carry on funding a shambolic party of brawling schoolkids, while they watch the party that's actually delivering their beloved Brexit being sabotaged? Or abandon a divided front organisation with one MP that has clearly outlived its usefulness and redirect their wealth to prop up a financially beleaguered party now controlled by True Believers in Brexit? My money would be on the latter.

That defection would cause some real outrage in Ukip ranks. Fortunately for Ukip's disloyal big donors, their chances of getting punched by an angry 'kipper would be pretty remote, given that the moneybags who control our politics are rarely seen anywhere near anything as democratic as a parliament building.