Or has he built up too many negatives since he quit?
Former UKIP leader Lord Pearsonâ€™s decision to resign the leadership on the grounds that he was â€œnot much goodâ€ at party politics was a refreshingly candid appraisal of his abilities. Thatâ€™s opened up the prospect of his predecessor, Nigel Farage, returning to the post he held for three years.
During that time, UKIP enjoyed its best ever result, in the European elections, when they polled 16.5% of the GB vote (despite their name, they didnâ€™t stand in Northern Ireland), winning 12 seats and finishing ahead of both Labour and the Lib Dems.
Thatâ€™s a strong CV but arguably UKIP should have done even better. The 2009 elections were a perfect storm, combining an election most voters didnâ€™t really care about too much, an election system that gave minority candidates a chance and all voters the opportunity to vote for them, a prominence to UKIP for whom this was their big issue, and the nightmare for the main parties of the expenses scandal. An increase of just 0.3% over 2004 wasnâ€™t a particularly good return.
Nonetheless, Farage gave his party a capable media presence, certainly better than Pearson or Roger Knapman (Farageâ€™s predecessor) did. Thatâ€™s in the credit ledger. Against it is his resignation. While his comments about running the party, leading his group in Europe and fighting his campaign against Bercow being too much might have been true, resigning when he did left his party in the lurch. Will his members forgive him that? UKIP supporters arenâ€™t a particularly forgiving lot. Itâ€™s not even as if it did Farage much good as Bercow chalked up a five-figure majority, Farage finished third and was nearly killed in a plane crash on election day.
Against him will be at least two of his MEP colleagues –
David Campbell Bannerman and Gerard Batten – who are less well known to the general public but may benefit from that very fact. Campbell Bannerman at least has a famous name (famous to political anoraks anyway), being distantly related to the early 20th-century PM.
Ladbrokes had Farage at evens before he announced that he was running. No doubt that will be tighter when the market re-opens.
Mike Smithson is away