IT was a wet April day when Nigel Farage turned up on the fish pier at Scarborough. The ancient Ukip battle bus coughed, spluttered and broke down. It blocked several parking spaces and the attendant was adamant that regardless of any mechanical problem it had to be moved.
Out off the fog came a purple taxi driven by a man in a broad black brimmed hat and a trench coat, looking like an extra from ‘Allo ‘Allo. “Get in Nigel...” The man said only once in the voice of a Bond villain.
Farage jumped in and beckoned for me to follow. We sat in the back of the cramped London cab filled with posters and leaflets of Ukip on tour.
Pulling up outside a packed Spa Grand Hall, I followed him inside. The room fell silent as if in the presence of a man who would change British political history.
Farage spoke and the people cheered. They were ordinary people who up until then weren’t interested in politics.
Talking to some of the party workers after the meeting as we ate a picnic brought along by the now MEP Amjad Bashir, it soon became quite clear that Ukip was a party of common folk.
They all thought they were the antidotes to the bland professional politicians who ate from the gravy train and supped the cup of sleaze of national politics.
There was a sense that in a couple of years. Their party would have its first Parliamentary seat and they would win the next European elections. There was no doubt in their hearts that they would be the next big thing.
How things had changed since I joined Ukip. Once upon a time, it wasn’t fashionable to be a member. In the early days of 2005, anyone who dared to support the views of such a party was regarded as being slightly odd at best or totally evil at worse.
I remember walking the streets with a bag full of leaflets with the Ukip candidate. We put manifestos through unwelcoming letterboxes and tried to chat with voters who weren’t really interested.
Ukip was a fringe party that was often out-voted by the fascist BNP. Many of the activists were just like avuncular uncles and aunts. They were not from the political class and were suspicious of politicians from all parties. But it was that which made Ukip unique. It wasn’t a political party. It stood for something more than selfish, self-centred policies. It was about gently making Britain a better place to live.
The mainstream parties tried to stifle debate on immigration and Europe. These were the issues the Notting Hill political elite wanted to avoid.
But as riots tore the heart out of our cities, the people began to think again. The only party brave and unique enough to say anything that resonated with the feelings of the people was Ukip. Then came the tipping point.
In May 2014, the people of Britain spoke. The army of Farage was on the march. It was the seminal moment in the history of his party and also the starting point of his possible downfall.
What made Ukip different was about to change. In Westminster, many of the professional politicians suddenly saw their futures in jeopardy.
Recklessly, Farage overlooked selected candidates to put in place the very people the grass roots of Ukip were suspicious of. Gravy train politicians wanting to keep their nose in the trough were sniffing out Ukip faster than a pig with a truffle.
Even though the first Ukip MP was elected, a committed former candidate was overlooked to accommodate Tory defector Douglas Carswell. He was sacrificed on the altar of media profile and of bloodying the nose of David Cameron.
Now, fearing the loss of their jobs, more Westminster cronies will be considering taking the Farage shilling. Ukip is selling out to the people its loyal supporters despise. Farage cannot see that voters want to be represented by ordinary people who have lived good working lives as teachers, bus drivers and dinner ladies and have never seen the inside of Oxbridge or a minor public school. They do not need to sit personality tests or have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the working of Europe.
Farage is in danger of losing the tatty edges that made his party so popular. He was seen as the bloke down the pub with a beer and a fag. A man you could trust, who shared the same views.
He is suddenly distant from the people, surrounded by advisors, PR people and bodyguards. What was so good about him was that he didn’t look like a Thunderbirds puppet or cheese munching Wallace. He was the only politician who could eat a bacon sandwich like a professional. It will only be a matter of time before the sleaze starts. That seems to be the way of the Westminster elite.
The country doesn’t want another political party – especially one filled with disaffected politicians from Conservative and Labour. It wants ordinary people to give us all a voice. After many years, Ukip is no longer for me.
GP Taylor is a bestselling author from near Scarborough.