Ukip’s general secretary has compared his party to the Black Death as he struggled to find positives from a night of carnage in the local elections.
When immediately questioned if he really wanted to compare his party to a plague that killed millions of people, Paul Oakley replied: “Absolutely. What’s wrong with that?”
As England went to the polls in the local elections, the Eurosceptic party suffered a near-wipeout, with dozens of councillors being axed as voters deserted the party.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Oakley insisted it was “not all over” for the party, instead raising the prospect that Ukip might instead “go dormant” like the plague bacillus before reappearing again in the future.
“Think of the Black Death in the Middle Ages," he continued.
"It comes along and it causes disruption and then it goes dormant, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.
"Our time isn’t finished because Brexit is being betrayed.”
Mr Oakley continued that many positives had come from the Black Death, including "economic growth and the Renaissance", and it also "got rid of the whole issue of servitude, basically, and allowed people to go into the towns and escape their landlords and create their own businesses".
When an incredulous Nick Robinson then asked him if he really wanted to compare his party to a plague that killed millions of people, Mr Oakley replied: “Absolutely. What’s wrong with that?”
Soon after the interview which sparked thousands of posts on social media ridiculing the statement, Mr Oakley posted a picture on Twitter of his raised thumb next to a screen showing that the phrase “Black Death” was trending, in what may have been an effort to claim his bizarre remark as a successful attempt to win publicity for Ukip.
The comment was described as “the political quote of the century … the most perfectly Ukip-y thing I have ever heard” by the party’s former chairman Steve Crowther.
In his interview, Mr Oakley continued that Ukip had been hit by the failure of former leader Henry Bolton to start campaigning early enough and by a court order to pay £175,000 to Labour MPs as a result of a libel case.
“We were never going to do brilliantly in these elections, we knew that,” he said. “We accepted that some time ago.
“If we had had the money to campaign, we would have done a lot better. We are never going to take over councils all over the country. Four years ago was our high point.”
The only point of light for the Eurosceptic party in a local election bloodbath was Derby, where it held one seat and gained another, unseating the Labour leader of the council and bringing its total representation to three.
With the referendum won and the UK on course for Brexit, it appeared that many Ukip voters may have considered the party’s job done.
Across England, Ukip lost around two-thirds of their council seats to the Tories, while the final third went to Labour.
Unlike Mr Oakley's attempt to put a positive-spin on the election outcome, former Ukip vice chairman Suzanne Evans openly discussed the prospect that the party might “crumble” altogether, but argued that even if it disappeared, it would leave behind a record of success in its main objective.
"If Ukip does crumble I think you could still arguably make the case that it’s been one of the most successful political parties in history," Ms Evans said.
She continued that Ukip's success of winning three seats at the polls "really put the cat among the pigeons".
“I have to say, three councillors in Derby, one of them actually unseating the leader of the Labour council – it might not be Ukip’s night, but my goodness me, when we do win we do it with style and we really put the cat among the pigeons.”