Since the Brexit vote, and the resignation of the party’s messiah, Nigel Farage, UKIP has done a good impersonation of the Popular Front of Judea routine from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The campaign to succeed Nigel Farage has descended into factional infighting that is especially confusing because most of the names involved are known only to their own families and the small band of young UKIP-types who drink around Westminster. Steven (Stephen?) won’t be able to stand because he couldn’t get his computer to work to deliver his nomination form. Someone else connected to Steven may be flung out. Another person wants someone else expelled. Meanwhile, the forces of Mr Shadowy Donor pledge a scorched earth war on every other faction if they don’t get what they want, or something. Honestly. This leadership clash is not exactly JFK v Nixon. Appearances are deceptive, however. The shambles matters a lot for the future shape of British politics, and helps explain Theresa May’s pitch for the “left behind by gloabalisation” vote.

In the aftermath of the referendum there was (and perhaps still is) a good chance for UKIP to morph into a new kind of political force, one that hoovers up the votes of disaffected working class former Labour voters who back Brexit. UKIP is strong in parts of the north and could in theory prosper.

But for such an approach to be successful, the party needs an effective and charismatic leader and a measure of unity. We know that even with Farage at the helm, and a remarkable push over the last few years, UKIP could not break through and convert millions of votes into parliamentary seats. There was a moment, a couple of years ago, when Farage might have broken out and up through the 20% vote share‎, but it did not happen because the simple truth is that even a lot of Eurosceptics found UKIP a toxic brew. Now, it faces a trimple whammy:

1) The departure of Farage could mean existing voters get bored and turn away.

2) Infighting by people we’ve mainly never heard of is unlikely to convince voters that there is still a point to UKIP.

3) The Tories have a strong new leader who might – just might – be in the Margaret Thatcher “fighting for Britain” mould.

‎Of course, without Farage and with the referendum ‎over, there is still room for a Leave means Leave force demanding a tough line on immigration. But there is no gap left – not one that can be converted into millions of UKIP votes – if May delivers enough in her deal with the EU and UKIP remains stuck in perpetual internal warfare. Get this right and the Tory leader will have redrawn the electoral map.

The prize for May is huge. If she can impress and convert a good slice of that UKIP vote – the part that can be persuaded the war is over – then she can get back up above 40% in vote share terms, and into Margaret Thatcher landslide territory. The lure helps explain why May is talking so frequently about the parts of Britain left behind by globalisation. The voters there in parts of the North and Midlands hold the key to turning a Tory victory next time into a rout.

And Labour? At least the party has a leader who can reconnect with the anti-immigration white working class while reaching out into Tory territory and converting mainstream Conservatives and millions of non-socialist floating voters.

Oh, wait, hold on… Of course not.