Let's be clear. Despite their rhetoric, of the three main contenders - Paul Nuttall, Suzanne Evans, and Raheem Kassam - all are offering different visions of their party's stagnation and fall. As explained on other occasions, UKIP was made, paradoxically, as a declining force because its volatile core constituency was and is in long-term decline. Therefore its options are somewhat limited. What our runners and riders are putting before the party's selectorate are plans to keep the garishly coloured show on the road.
The favourite is Paul Nuttall, deputy chair and one of the few kippers to have name recognition - at least among the Westminster cognoscenti. He comes across well in the media, even if his arguments are complete nonsense. He also has some nous about him. For instance, in a canny bit of internal positioning he's pledged a referendum on capital punishment. For the party's diminishing membership it's just the sort of thing they would lap up. As they share, along with the Westminster elites UKIP professes to despise, the assumptions behind the MacKenzie theory of the working class, they would assume it could find an echo there too. Nuttall then is the standard bearer of the Northern strategy, of talking up immigration, stirring up Islamophobia, and hoping his scouse accent turns the man-of-the-people trick for him. The problem, however, is that despite his Merseyside origins Nuttall is definitely not on the "red" side of his party. On matters economic, he's on the record for supporting NHS privatisation because it "stifles competition". And he quite likes the idea that modestly-paid workers and billionaires should pay the same rate of income tax - except the latter get a tax cut and the former can look forward to a rise. As is well known, Nuttall is opposed to abortion (he'd like a referendum on that too), and he wallows in the usual climate change denialism. This is no barrier for a party content with polling averages between four and 10 per cent, but there are too many policy hostages to fortune here to pose Labour a serious and sustained challenge beyond the odd council by-election.
While Nuttall would take UKIP back to its 1999-2012 levels of support, albeit with added decline and stagnation, Suzanne Evans at least offers something different. Politics-wise, she's arguably a sidestep to Nuttall's left, but on matters of presentation they're worlds apart. Apart from the immigration obsession, like the late and unlamented Steven Woolfe she's competent in the media, but comes across too much like a mainstream politician. And a distinctly Tory one at that. As a former BBC journo, her rendering of Auntie speak gives her tone and diction a posh-sounding aspect sure to alienate those northern constituencies UKIP is hanging its hopes on. For that matter, Nuttall is unlikely to make much headway in the leafy shires among the nation of disaffected shop keepers. By contrast, Evans-led UKIP would be a respectable protest outfit with appeal to disaffected Tories disappointed Theresa May isn't the second coming of the blessed Margaret. Her leadership would be best placed to win back those who switched from the Tories after Dave saw equal marriage through the Commons, and are drifting back now Notting Hill Toryism spectacularly folded.
Nuttall and Evans lack that crossover appeal. The former thinks he's the man that can pull behind UKIP the non-Labour voting sections of the working class and make new inroads. By knocking off some of the party's sharp edges, Evans believes she can keep the party a going concern by staking the Tory territory that netted UKIP a few hundred councillors and two MPs as it peaked in 2013-15. These are mutually exclusive strategies. For his part, Nigel Farage's charisma, while divisive and repellent to the majority of Britain's voters, spoke to different constituencies with some success. While neither have Farage's pull, from the party's point of view at least UKIP can look forward to a future, however stunted and unappealing that will turn out to be. Under the third contender, there probably won't be a party left by Christmas. Which, admittedly, would be a nice present for all socialist and left-minded people.
Yes, Raheem Kassam is the kill switch candidate. If kippers want to obliterate their party, members should follow their former leader's endorsement and cast their ballots for him. It's not just that Kassam is a political ingénue who thinks swearing a lot, scribbling nihilist boiler plate, and having the ear of Farage and members of Trump's campaign team qualifies him for the job of leading a political party, it's that he's completely clueless. Seriously, if your time in hitherto was spent undertaking grutal shaftings with real and imagined enemies of the leader, don't be surprised to be on everyone's shitlist. Remember, no one thanked Beria for services rendered to Stalin. Far from making UKIP great again (what an original slogan), "Team Raheem" would find himself in a position no different to that occupied and swiftly vacated by the hapless Diane James. His stupid libertarianism, which is a rationale for childish, amoral fuck-youism won't find many takers among the party ranks, let alone the voters. And then, in the unlikely event of winning, there would be a legitimacy vacuum at the party's centre to match his lack of sense, tact, and basic decency. Under him the self-styled people's army would not be a serious proposition, and surely splintering and extinction would lie in its immediate future. Which begs the question, why is Kassam standing? I can't help but think this is about profile raising in pursuit of a media, rather than a political career. After all, there aren't any more European Parliamentary seats for UKIP's waifs and wastrels.
Kassam for UKIP leader, then? Actually, no. As much as I'd quite like UKIP to do one, they serve two political purposes. The first is they keep a foot firmly on the neck of the far right. For as long as it scoops up its electoral support, the splintered Nazi scene with their petty fuhrers can't get their act together. The second is, despite the rhetoric, UKIP still tends to appeal more to disgruntled Tories than fed up Labour. There are fewer of those working class "right old fascists" than MacKenzie, Westminster, and kippers suppose. It stands to reason that, for purely partisan reasons, Evans is the the progressive choice because she would cause the Tories more grief than either Nuttall or Kassam. So say it loud, say it proud, Suzanne Evans for UKIP leader!