The best part of ten years ago, we occasionally polled our Members’ Panel about a Conservative-UKIP pact. The proportion of respondents supporting one varied between about a third and two-fifths.
Almost a decade latter, seven in ten panel members believe that Nigel Farage should be admitted to the Conservative Party were he to seek membership.
True, the panel’s composition has changed. And the two questions aren’t directly comparable. But the shift in sentiment about the former UKIP leader is unmistakable. What’s changed?
First, the EU referendum. Most of our panel will have been for Brexit, and see Farage as on the same side. Next, celebrity: he is morphing into one via GB News (he’s among the best of its interviewers).
Finally, his appalling treatment by Coutts exemplified the pervasiveness of woke capitalism – and his canny fightback conveyed a sense of a men who gets things done.
Farage is 59 – too young to die, or at least to campaign as he once did, but not too old to rock n’ roll. I don’t see him as a big player on the centre-right unless the system falls to pieces.
Then again, it’s more vulnerable than it seems: the main parties have withered as mass movements, and first past the post helps to prop them up.
Finally, most of the Conservative conversation about Farage as a putative member says either “yes, he’d be a vote winner” or “no, he certainly wouldn’t.”
Both takes are wide of a preliminary question: namely, is there any good reason why Farage shouldn’t be admitted to membership, in the event of him seeking it? We will be offering an answer during the next few weeks.