The general election was a disaster for Ukip. It won just 2 percent of the vote. Leader Paul Nuttall resigned after failing to be elected in Boston and Skegness, where the party’s vote dropped by 26 percent.
Its poor vote follows May’s local elections, where Ukip lost 137 councillors.
Just two years ago, Ukip was on the rise. The racist party came third in the 2015 general election with 12.6 percent of the vote. Some 3.8 million people voted for it and it came second in 120 constituencies.
Why has Ukip declined so sharply, despite its disproportionate coverage in the media?
It isn’t true that the party has seen a smooth, steady rise in popularity. Its history is full of crises and splits. But in recent years it was boosted by mainstream politicians’ scapegoating of migrants and a disillusion with the main party politicians.
Ukip’s former leader Nigel Farage ludicrously posed as “anti-establishment” to tap into this mood.
Last year’s referendum on European Union (EU) membership, something that Ukip had long campaigned for, also gave it a boost. Ukip could pose as setting the political agenda and grabbed a lot of media attention for its anti-EU stance.
But Farage resigned following the vote to leave the EU and Ukip has been mired in crisis ever since.
Some, such as former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell, argued that the Leave vote meant it no longer had any purpose.
Competing factions want the party to go in different directions. Hardliners such as Farage want Ukip to remain strongly anti-immigrant and xenophobic. Others want Ukip to shift its message so it can pick up more disgruntled Tories.
Farage complained earlier this year, “Some in Ukip want to turn us into a mainstream political party with very bland messages. I would say Ukip is a radical party or it is nothing.
“Immigration is still the number one issue in the minds of voters. Ukip must not be squeamish about it. People like Douglas Carswell wrote in the Times last year we should not make immigration synonymous with EU membership.
“I thought, ‘Crikey, I have spent ten years trying to do that very thing’.”
It’s good that Ukip is in retreat, but anti-racists can’t be complacent. Just two years ago Ukip came third in the general election. And just because Ukip has lost credibility, doesn’t mean the racist ideas it pushes have gone away.
We need to keep up the fight against racism.