0724, Friday 24th February 2017.
Paul Nuttall wakes up from the little sleep he’s had and for a moment, he can’t quite recall where he is. Within the space of a week he has slept in Brussels, Strasbourg, Bootle and now a hotel on the outskirts of Stoke. The light breaking from beneath the curtains is enough that he can see himself in the mirror. “I look like I’ve fucking aged ten years,” he thinks to himself.
It’s been a long night. The UKIP leader returned from the count at about two am, there was no point staying any longer. By pure habit he checks his phone. Wiping the sleep from his eyes he tries to focus. Two missed calls and a text from Gawain Towler, another from his aide. There may be others. They can wait. There are a few other text messages with commiserations. He skips them.
The message from his London press chief is the most concerning. A story has already appeared on Breitbart London with quotes from Nigel Farage. Nuttall thinks it was probably pre-written. Even Raheem Kassam’s detractors are saying it’s the best article he has ever penned. Gawain says it is “catastrophic”. Paul skim reads the link.
“Paul Nuttall promised to keep the flame of Nigel Farage alive, to take UKIP to the next level. Instead he placed amateurs like Lisa Duffy and Patrick O’Flynn in charge of the fire, and they, the Red UKIP wreckers doused it out,” is a line in particular which is being picked up by the party faithful. Predictably the infighting has begun.
Arron Banks never went to bed. Up all night tweeting, he has issued an ultimatum. No more funding until the “infiltrators are removed from the party!”. Douglas Carswell has re-tweeted it with a smile emoji.
Nuttall’s pondering is cut short as the hotel door opens. “You better watch this,” an aide says as he puts a cup of coffee down on the desk next to the leader’s bed.
Steven Woolfe MEP, formely of UKIP is live on Sky news. Another damning indictment of Nuttall’s leadership, Woolfe dissects the campaign and tells the presenter he could have won Stoke. “What next for UKIP, Steven?” they ask. “Well I really think it’s time to call it a day.”
The news ticker at the bottom of the screen keeps repeating the same thing.
‘LABOUR HOLD: GARETH SNELL WINS STOKE CENTRAL BY-ELECTION – 3258 MAJORITY’