In the current chaotic political climate, where the unpredictability of politics has become the only predictable thing, the largely working-class Midlands city of Stoke is playing host to an ideological battle royale.
Of course we are talking about Ukip versus Labour. The two parties go head to head in a byelection that has the potential to determine both of their fates. After a successful Brexit campaign, I wondered what Ukip – my former party – would convene around as a new raison d’etre. The departure of Nigel Farage, who still remains spokesman-in-chief for the commonly referred to “left behind” voters, has yet to strike a fatal blow to the party whose rapid growth has often challenged the organisation’s structural capability. As the penny drops that Nigel has left the building, I wonder whether the prominence of the new party leader Paul Nuttall as Ukip’s candidate in Stoke is a curse, rather than a blessing.
If there’s one thing you can say about Ukip, it’s that it occupies a very special section of the political spectrum that other parties simply cannot reach, and an area that is increasingly in vogue across the west. Even without any significant new policy stance (the party has adopted pushing for a fast Brexit as the obvious continuum of its purpose), the general cultural zeitgeist of rightwing populism may be enough to keep Ukip alive.
Various betting sites have slashed Ukip’s odds for the byelection to evens. With an electorate that voted…