Rob Ford, a politics lecturer at the University of Manchester, questioned whether the new focus on Islam and cultural integration was in fact designed to win seats. “Banging on about burkas is not a first-past-the-post winning strategy. I expect they are well aware they’re going to get a pasting . . . They’re probably thinking about how we can hold on to a large enough part of our core vote,” said Mr Ford.
“This is their effort to answer: ‘what’s the point of you now, guys?’ It’s almost like a survival strategy.”
Half of British voters support banning the burka and the niqab, compared with 69 per cent of Germans and only a quarter of Americans, according to a January poll by YouGov. But Mr Ford warned this would not necessarily translate into support for Ukip’s new stance. “It’s the messenger that matters, as well as the message,” he said.