Nigel Farage is one of the most diverse figures in UK politics at this moment in time attracting applause and criticism in equal measures. Sometimes the image of Nigel Farage takes over from his UKIP party with many people seeing the man rather than seeing the party. Despite the fact that his party attracted 12.6% of the vote in the last UK general election it only ended up with one seat in the House of Commons.
The man himself has come under intense pressure over the last few weeks, much of this brought on by himself after suggesting he would resign within 10 minute if unsuccessful in winning the seat of South Thanet. As it happened, he lost the seat and good to his word he resigned his position as head of the party. However, this is Nigel Farage and nothing is ever that straightforward!
What has he achieved so far?
While Nigel Farage has many critics he has caught the attention of the UK electorate after a record breaking election for his party. Somehow he is now seen as fair game despite the fact his party obtained more than double the share of the vote of the SNP (which managed to secure 56 seats in Scotland) and more than the Liberal Democrats. Slowly but surely the party is being cleaned up, some of the more outspoken figures are falling by the wayside although that is not to say the party is short of controversy.
Many people suggested that a vote for UKIP was indeed a protest vote but the figures so far suggest this is not quite the case. The party did better, in terms of voting share, than at any time during its relatively short life. So why is Nigel Farage under so much pressure?
Should he stay, or should he go now?
The leader of the UKIP party must now be regretting offering to resign from politics if he failed to obtain a seat in the last general election. The odds were always stacked against a win in South Thanet with the press seemingly turning against him and branding supporters of his party racist. He was not disgraced in the election but there is no doubt that the aftermath was handled very badly!
Just days after offering his resignation and effectively resigning from politics it was announced that Nigel Farage would remain because his resignation had been rejected. This prompted an array of criticism from within the party, and outside of the party, with many suggesting at the very least there should be a leadership challenge. There may well be a leadership challenge sometime this year but at this moment in time Nigel Farage remains head of UKIP. Initially even his most ardent critics appreciated the fact that he was good to his word and resigned after losing the election. Should he have remained good to his word?
No political challenger?
While many in the party have huffed and puffed and leaked comments and information to the press Nigel Farage still remains in total control. There have even been calls for him to “take a holiday” and while he may back away from frontline politics in the short term he will not disappear. The fact is at this moment in time Nigel Farage IS UKIP and this is unlikely to change in the short to medium term until a stronger challenger emerges.
Nigel Farage is not a foolish man, he likes attention and he knows how to get it, but there is an underlying respect for him in many ways because if someone else was to emerge who could “better the party” many believe he would step aside. The sad fact is that at this moment in time there is no ready-made successor to Nigel Farage and while his resignation and the non-acceptance of this move was handled atrociously from a public relations point of view, what other option was there?
UKIP has been on the fringes of UK politics for some time now and while the party may only have obtained one seat at the last general election, attracting more than 12% of the vote was a major step forward. There are high hopes that the party will continue to grow, continue to attract new members and hopefully fare even better in local and general elections in the future. It is highly likely that the party will jettison Nigel Farage when a credible challenger emerges for the leadership but at this moment in time Nigel Farage is worth far too much in publicity for those running UKIP to consider bringing a close to his colourful career.