Whatever the European election result, Ukip has already won

Ukip has changed the shape of politics – for the better.

Whether or not Ukip wins, this month’s European election campaign has belonged to one politician alone: Nigel Farage. Single-handedly he has brought these otherwise moribund elections to life. Single-handedly he has restored passion, genuine debate and meaning to politics. Single-handedly he has reinvented British democracy.

This is a superlative achievement, and Mr Farage deserves to be celebrated. Instead strenuous attempts have been made to turn him into a figure of odium and contempt. Farage has twice been physically assaulted, once when attacked with eggs whilst campaigning in Nottingham, once when struck on the head by a placard-bearing protester in Margate.

He has been labelled a racist and a fascist. There have been comparisons with Hitler. He has endured by far the most hostile press and media coverage of any mainstream politician in living memory — far more brutal than anything encountered by Neil Kinnock in 1987 and 1992.

Besides the smears, Mr Farage has endured intrusion into his private life. In the European parliament, Nikki Sinclaire used parliamentary privilege to accuse Mr Farage of having an affair with his press officer. This unproven allegation, denied by both parties, was reported at substantial length that night on BBC News at Ten.

Lees deze column door Peter Oborne verder op The Spectator