28 Feb 2014

Too many elephants? On the Ukip EU campaign trail

We must avoid the “elephant traps”, says Patrick O’Flynn, Ukip’s communications director. The trouble is, the party still has a considerable number of its own.

Former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, for instance, is a massive elephant trap and today Nigel Farage fell right into it, writes Channel 4 News Politics Producer Tim Bouverie.

Mr Hamilton, disgraced for accepting cash for questions in the 1990s, is now the party’s campaign manager. “Is this appropriate?” asked journalists at this afternoon’s press conference.

Mr Hamilton is merely a “back-room boy”, snapped Mr Farage.

‘Front of house’

In a different part of the building, the man himself disagreed. He would be playing a “front of house” role in the coming European elections, he insisted.

This prompted a stream of questions from journalists, about both Hamilton’s past and future.

Clearly angered Mr Farage wanted to move on: “I’m bored talking about Neil Hamilton”. The press weren’t, though.

We then tried to speak to Mr Hamilton ourselves but bouncers, spotting Michael Crick, blocked our path.

European elections

Ukip and Mr Farage don’t seem to be enjoying the scrutiny that comes with electoral success, and Friday’s press conference revealed an irritable side to Mr Farage which is rarely seen. But they have to get used to it and, more importantly, to deal with it.

Ukip is still set to do extremely well in May’s European and local elections. Then there is the general election, at which Mr Farage promised a “good number” of seats.

With further success will come further scrutiny, for which the party will have to develop a more sophisticated strategy. Employing heavies to block journalists’ paths is not the answer.

Read more: Ukip conference - Farage, Torquay and Fawlty Towers