The week in review: Welcome to Ukip's parallel universe

Not one of the most subtle images, but you get the idea
Not one of the most subtle images, but you get the idea
Alex Stevenson By

Britain entered a parallel universe this week, where Ukip rule the country and Nigel Farage is prime minister. It has felt a little bit like Westminster is being turned upside down and violently shaken.

The sense that something weird is happening was palpable. Of the first six or seven doors we knocked on, all but one were voting Ukip. Eerie, eh? But of course I smelled a rat. It was the local Ukip candidate in Hertfordshire who was taking me round. He insisted this extraordinary parade of Kipper-backing pensioners was nothing to do with him. I was sceptical then. But, after the results of this Thursday's local elections, I'm not so sure.

You have to go to Romsey to find a place where this parallel universe is reality. There the Ukip candidate took a very impressive 67% of the vote. Elsewhere, the results are a little less dramatic. There are no Ukip-run councils in the country after May 2nd. Nor is Farage even a junior minister, or ever likely to be.

Still, it's the nervous breakdown which the arrival of the Kippers has triggered which remains very real, and what is most disorienting. We have grown so used to our three-party system that the genuine appearance of a fourth name in the game is a little bewildering. It requires exactly the sort of mental adjustment which you need when stepping from one universe into another. Instant vomiting is the only real appropriate response, which for many moderates appalled by Ukip's rise is thoroughly appropriate.


Those who write Farage and co off do so at their peril, however. As Ian has been discovering this week, their candidates are an odd mixture of affable eccentricity and knee-jerk negativity. On the doorstep, I found they trigger one of two responses: "You're racist" (tricky to deal with) or "you're not extreme enough" (far more challenging). All this means the Conservatives have some serious thinking to do.

What makes this renaissance for Ukip so extraordinary is that they achieved progress despite the hatchet job attempted by the media over the weekend. Embarrassing stories about dodgy candidates and the clear bewilderment of the main parties about how to deal with them simply reinforced the view they are fully separate from the establishment. They will continue to be that for some time to come. Tricky for the Conservatives, who had a more mixed performance when out canvassing.

There was some other news, believe it or not. Ed Miliband succeeded in triggering another leadership crisis with a staggeringly awful performance in a BBC radio interview. The arrival of important people from Dubai posed a diplomatic headache for No 10. And we learned that it turns out living in rented housing tends to mess children up. A troubling thought.

Next week sees a return to Westminster, when our monarch will roll out her glad rags and deliver the coalition's third Queen's Speech next Wednesday. We will be there, smartly dressed and looking attentive. See you then.

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