UKIP stumbles as James’ resigns

Stephen Woolfe, favourite to replace Diane James as UKIP leader.

By Ellise Nicholls

Diane James MEP has resigned as UKIP leader after just 18 days at the helm. Ms James announced her resignation on Tuesday, citing both personal and professional reasons for her quitting.

In a statement to The Times that was later tweeted by Ms James herself, she made it clear that whilst she had enjoyed the “enthusiastic” support of UKIP party members, she felt there was less support by party officials.

“It has become clear I do not have sufficient authority, nor the full support of MEP colleagues and party officers to implement the changes I believe are necessary and upon which I based my campaign.”

“Therefore, I will not take the election process further. I will continue to concentrate fully on my activities and responsibility as an elected UKIP Member of the European Parliament for SE UK Region.”

Ms James’ resignation may also have been a result of her husband’s ill health and a recent incident on a central London Street where James’ was “badly shaken up” after being verbally abused and spat at.

As Ms James may not have formalised her nomination as leader and had not appointed a deputy, UKIP officials were initially unable to say who was now the leader of the party.

James’ predecessor Nigel Farage who resigned following the Brexit vote told the BBC on the Victoria Derbyshire programme that he would “continue as the interim leader of the UK Independence Party” and that UKIP “will go through the electoral process” to find Ms James successor.

UKIP chairman Paul Oakden said: “It is with regret that I have tonight received confirmation that Diane James has chosen to resign as party leader, citing personal and other reasons. I will now look to convene an emergency meeting of our National Executive Committee to confirm the process for electing Diane’s replacement.”

Swift discussions within UKIP are taking place, and there may be a snap two-week election to nominate a new leader quickly and officially. Two possible candidates are Paul Nuttal and former disqualified candidate Steven Woolfe, alongside former chief of staff to Farage, Raheem Kassam.

UKIP’s former deputy chair, Suzanne Evans, may also try again after being suspended at the time of the last contest, and former candidate, Bill Etheridge, said he would not rule out standing once again.

Farage told the Press Association that he would not return as UKIP leader, even if offered $20 million.

“No I’m not coming back, I’m retired”.

UKIP’s governing body will meet next week to discuss the second leadership election. During the re-election process, Mr Farage will continue as the acting leader of UKIP. Farage, who had previously resigned as party chief in 2009, 2015, and in response to the Brexit vote, has said ‘It is time for someone else to do the job.”