THE UK Independence Party is in Doncaster today for its first major get-together since a disappointing General Election. Here are five things to look out for
1. Leader or liability?
In many ways Nigel Farage has been more than a leader of the party, he has been the party. Although public recognition of figures like Suzanne Evans and Paul Nuttall is now growing it is Mr Farage who remains Ukip’s main draw. However, in the aftermath of the General Election there were suggestions from within the party that the Farage-effect had been exhausted and he was an obstacle to attracing new supporters. Conference will be a chance to see whether the grassroots still love Nigel.
2. Party or pressure group?
While it pitched itself as a fully-fledged political party with costed policies across all areas at the election it remains to be seen what will happen to Ukip as it approaches the referendum in Britain’s EU membership that it has long craved. Will it become a single-issue pressure group or continue to develop its wider policy agenda?
3. Divided or devoted?
The pressure of the election revealed tensions within the party as Nigel Farage resigned and then un-resigned from the leadership and the party’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell resisted calls to take the full amount of taxpayer funding the party could claim. Will there be efforts to present the party’s key figures s united at conference?
4. Glossy or gaffe-prone?
Ukip has always struggled to avoid gaffes overshadowing its events and organisers will be desperate to get through this weekend unscathed.
5. Determined or demoralised?
After winning a host of seats in Brussels at the European elections and picked up two seats in Parliament, Ukip went into the General Election full of hope that it would make a major breakthrough at Westminster. But while the party received a large number of votes they were not concentrated enough to produce seats and in fact the party emerged from the election with just a single MP. Will party members be downhearted or will the referendum energise them back into action?