The Bigot Brand is having a moment.
Reports out today that anti-Semitic attacks in the UK have soared to record highs; ISIS continues its campaigns of incomprehensible horror; Germany's Pegida continues its divisive marches across Europe.
If you read the papers, it's hard not to conclude that the world is in the vice-like grip of a steely, faceless brand of hate; hate infecting our media, reaching our children, seducing the disaffected with the protective armour of moral righteousness and grandiose Hollywood-propaganda. Hate creeping into hearts and minds. Hate that nothing seems able to puncture.
Hate, like all brands, is just an idea; trussed up, hollowed out, cut into easily consumable pieces. Brands are dangerous things. And they are insidious: even as you try to denounce them, you unwittingly give them exposure.
Hate - two-dimensional, self-righteous, impenetrable - must be the most seductive fait accompli of global branding ever achieved.
Thank god then for Ukip, the home of UK Bigots, whose seemingly total inability to deploy such a feat of lethal PR efficiency gives us all reason to hope that in some quarters at least, the Bigot Brand might still yet lose its enticing veneer of self-appointed vindication, and just become a bit embarrassing.
Matthew Richardson, the PR don appointed to 'sort out' the Ukip's media gaffs - whose 'rising stars' are seemingly so incapable of being within five feet of mobile technology without broadcasting multiple racial, gender and sexual slurs that he has now imposed a blanket ban on communicating with the instruction: 'Just don't.' - last week come out in public defence of the 'thousands of bigots in Britain' who also 'deserve representation' - before declaiming it as 'harmless banter down the pub' which didn't really count.
Happily, he has also been caught on camera describing the NHS as the 'reichstag bunker of socialism' (dispatched with such Germanic fervour that one can only presume a certain reverence for that particular vernacular) to the equally civic-minded American Conservatives - skilfully deploying a painfully mixed metaphor to describe that most Nazi-ish of all social impulses: caring for the weak and vulnerable.
Richardson - a man whose corpulence suggests that he will soon regret doing away with public health - is a breath of fresh air in this age of aggressively pruned political soundbites and deadly media competence.
We applaud this individual, a man so clearly liberated from our brand-obsessed, PC culture. Here is no slave to party branding. Here stands a man, proud and rotund; a man who squints in the face of Decency and Tolerance and Democratic Values and eats the Basic Rules of Effective PR for breakfast.
Here is a man who does not spend his day taking 3/4 selfies, deciding which of his chins will consistently feature on his campaign boards and his next vitriolic blog post; a man who barefacedly invokes Hitler to describe democracy and being a bit soft in the middle and the milk of human kindness and all that bloody rubbish.
Here is the man whose bosom the Bigots of Britain can call home.
And we should all be thankful. In this media-led battleground, the Comms strategist of any party is the litmus test for political clout.
And when the Nigel Facade - carefully constructed through reassuringly plummy vowels, pressed suits and the comforting smack of lunchtime-Guinness machismo - comes tumbling down, there is only this. People, squatting behind ideas, hiding behind brands.
People, with all their flaws, their vulnerability, their ignorance, their selfishness and pettiness.
Ideas, of course, are always more dangerous than the people who hold them.
Farage, whose amphibious eyes flicker every time he lambasts another tenet of democracy - lips twitching with barely suppressed glee over the 'gross' project of multiculturalism that led to the Charlie Hebdo massacre mere hours after the attack - knows this better than his PR King.
Faced with such ongoing incompetence, his strategy seems instead to behave like bigot-sonar or bigot morse code; getting the ideas out there at all costs, however irrelevant or unfounded; furiously and continuously broadcasting all major bigot keywords, hoping to ensnare all bigot sub-parties, whatever their grievance or however niche.
Farage - who cynically exploits cultural scapegoats as old as time even as we have just marked the 70th anniversary of the fullest realisation of that very idea; who has had enough privilege and education and freedom to look deeper and grasp more and know better - is not the leader of one voice or one purpose or one ideal. He's the leader of catch-all, disparate, spread-the-net resentment.
And let's not pretend that can't be a powerful, lethal force. Resentment, ennobled as Righteousness. But Resentment isn't powerful when it's ridiculous. Resentment can't be seductive when it's silly.
By continually exposing its riotously flawed humanity; its intellectual flabbiness, its complete and utter inability to toe the party line, we can all see the embarrassing yeast condition beneath the surface of Ukip's brand of resentment. It's itchy, and uncomfortable and unsavoury. But dispatched properly, ultimately harmless.
Ukip is a spectacular feat of failed branding. A triumph of people over positioning - flawed, confused, uncertain people - at a time when we need exactly that.
So, with less than 90 days to go until the general election, hurrah for Ukip.
Hurrah for their ongoing, eye-popping, jaw slackening ineptitude.
Long may it live.
(Originally published 05.02.15 at Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bex-felton/hurrah-for-ukip-the-faile_b_6621116.html)