What does Ukip keep in its handbags?

SOME of us need cheering up these days and Ukip is the gift that keeps on giving.

First new leader Diane James resigns after 18 days in the post – a period not much longer than a Nigel Farage bender (or so one assumes). Then leadership hopeful Steven Woolfe ends up in hospital for two days after a “slight scuffle” with Ukip MEP Mike Hookem, a man fully equipped with the right surname for delivering a punch. Not that he did. Oh no, it was all what people in Hull call “handbags at dawn”, according to Hookem. Well, I guess it depends what you keep in those handbags.

Hookem told BBC Radio Humberside on Friday: “Any injuries Steven Woolfe had, which caused whatever medical problems, did not come from me, from my hand. I did not injure him. I did not throw a punch at him. I did not cause those injuries.”

In a surreal Ukip moment, Woolfe was shown in hospital giving the thumbs up during a visit by Farage, the Ukip leader or not, depending on the day of the week. Farage has unresigned before, sometimes barely before he has resigned.

The cause of the not-fight was said to be fears among Ukip MEPs about Woolfe’s reported flirtation with the Tories. Well, you don’t want to flirt with those people, especially as a Ukip/Tory flirtation is a sort of political incest at best.

Anyway it is heartening to see Ukip caught in this unbrotherly chaos, with handbags at dawn and leadership reigns of 18 days. The problem is surely that Ukip has always been a single-issue party fashioned in the shape of a single leader. Now that the issue of leaving Europe – the only Ukip policy of note – has been settled, at least in theory, the party has become headless, while the departing Farage remains both a unifying figure and a divisive one, too. Ukip members seem to love him or hate him. Personally I find that the hate option saves a lot of unnecessary bother.

With Theresa May delivering a conference speech that was largely right-wing, a bit left-wing, a pick-and-mix of political ideologies wrapped in a big blue bow, the Tories are making a grab for the centre-ground. That’s if anyone can agree where the centre might be. The theory being that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has moved to the left-hand-side of the political playground, leaving room for May to claim she is now in the middle – a statement undermined by her disgraceful Tory-tummy-tickling remarks about immigration during her speech.

All that and, over the Pond, the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made an apology – almost. His sort-of-sorry followed lewd remarks about women, in which he bragged about using his fame to try and “fuck” women and groping them without waiting for their consent. “When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump said in a recording from 2005 which was obtained by the Washington Post.

All of which suggests that even Ukip has some way to go before it can catch up with Trump.

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