The problem for the political establishment is that whenever it rubbishes UKIP or one of its candidates, Nigel Farage’s party remains more or less unaffected. It may even benefit from the attack.
While the BBC and its chums queue up to accuse UKIP of racism, sexism, homophobia or whatever, the voters actually react not against the party but against its critics.
The ‘thoughcrime’ accusations are calculated to encourage people to say ‘to hell with it, these UKIP people are only saying what plenty of us think privately but are forced to suppress’.
A vote for UKIT has therefore been turned into a vote against politically-correct thoughcrime. Voters are fed up of being told what they may and may not think and say. So a vote for UKIP becomes a vote for freedom of speech.
Of course, that freedom will be portrayed by the serried ranks of the political establishment as the freedom to be racist, homophobic or sexist and therefore described as unacceptable.
But most people don’t like being told what to do. We still, mistakenly in many ways, think of this as a free country. We may modify our views over a period of time but we don’t take kindly to being ordered to think and speak in certain ways.
So we rather like the idea that a political party can champion a politically-incorrect outlook – even when we don’t agree with what an individual may have said.
Discussion and debate are fine; people shouldn’t be shouted down and silenced simply for expressing an opinion which may be regarded these days as outlandish but which was received wisdom only a generation ago.
None of this has much to do with the European Union or with UKIP’s policies. It’s a revolt against the dictatorship of the establishment. It’s sticking up two fingers up at Big Brother. And it serves him right.