As Ukip implodes amid the likely departure of yet another leader, it faces yet another threat: the possibility of its best-known figure, Nigel Farage, launching a new political vehicle.
While Farage has not publicly said anything on the issue, he has been in talks about a possible new grouping with Arron Banks, the millionaire insurance businessman who was Ukip’s main financier before becoming disenchanted.
A source said Farage and Banks have discussed “at length” a new political enterprise, stressing that would be a movement rather than a traditional political party.
While his influence remains strong – Henry Bolton was his choice in the last leadership election – he has shown no signs of wanting to take control of Ukip again.
This is probably because Ukip is now a much-diminished force, slumping from almost 4 million votes under Farage in the 2015 election to fewer than 600,000 two years later, its defining purpose – Brexit – all but achieved.
It remains to be seen whether Farage will want to return to frontline politics. Some Ukip members say they believe he remains torn between this option and his current life, spent hosting radio phone-in shows and seeking to maintain a presence on the US rightwing talk show circuit.
“Nigel is playing his cards very close to his chest,” a senior Ukip member said. “I’m not sure if he even knows yet exactly what he wants to do.”
Farage has talked at length about the toll frontline politics has exerted on his life, describing himself in an interview in December as “53, separated and skint”. He also worries about the effect his profile and divisive name has on his family.
The discussion with Banks has made a return to politics all the more likely – and with Ukip in freefall, there potentially is space for a movement arguing for a robust Brexit.
A spokesman for Farage told the BBC: “There is no chance of him coming back as Ukip leader. He wouldn’t consider it for a second.” The spokesman noted that Bolton remained leader for now.
Banks, who bankrolled the Leave.EU campaign said in March last year he had quit Ukip to focus on a new movement, but as yet nothing has materialised. He also promised to stand in last year’s general election in Clacton in Essex, formerly held by Ukip’s Douglas Carswell, a constituency he said he had never visited, but then decided against it.
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