I have friends across the political spectrum, some people find that hard to understand but it is true none the less. It is perhaps unsurprising that as a euro-sceptic Tory I know more people in UKIP than in the other parties, indeed a number of them were colleagues in the Conservative party until fairly recently.
The Kippers that I know best tend to be at the younger end of the spectrum and are free marketeers, libertarian, and euro-sceptict. Typically it is the first two of those that drives the third. What they are not is small minded, protectionist, xenophobic, pessimistic or scared.
When I explore the reasons why friends have run off to UKIP it invariably follows a familiar pattern, a backdrop of general unhappiness with the direction the party has taken and a trigger event. Often that trigger was a deselection or failure to get selected, a personality clash with someone, or frustration with a lack of personal progress within the party ranks.
The defection is often, not always but often, accompanied with some serious bridge burning. Public and cutting denunciations of the former party, its work, and its people may cement the relationship with the new party but leaves friends and former colleagues bruised.
And it is that last point that worries me on behalf of my fiends. UKIP seems to be dropping its libertarian position for a political philosophy that’s easier to sell on the doorstep, gay marriage anyone? Forget free markets when you can talk about punitive envy taxes to former Labour voters. And why be optimistic about the UK’s future place in the world when it’s easier to reinforce people’s fears, however ill founded they are.
If UKIP keeps drifting away from its own roots I’m not sure how long my friends will be able to pretend they still agree with Nigel, and those burnt bridges may well come back to haunt them.