UKIP Leadership Roundup
posted by: David Lawrence | on: Friday, 28 October 2016, 08:54
Mere months after the highest victory in its history, UKIP has nosedived to its deepest crisis. Steven Woolfe, who quit UKIP after being hospitalised in an altercation with fellow MEP Mike Hookem, has left a party still mired in nasty factional fighting and teetering on the brink of financial ruin. Polls indicate that UKIP’s support has more than halved since the EU referendum. Few could argue with the former leadership favourite that the party has fallen into a “death spiral of their own making”.
The current leadership race, triggered after reluctant new leader Diane James resigned after just eighteen days, offers one final chance for the sinking party to save itself and wriggle free of the legacy of Farage. The new leader will face the Herculean task of unifying UKIP under a new platform that also justifies the party’s continued existence post-Brexit.
Whilst more candidates may yet enter the fray before nominations close on 31 October, the following candidates are confirmed to be standing. The new leader will be announced 28 November.
Former Deptuty Leader Paul Nuttall is UKIP’s highest profile politician after Farage and had always been his obvious successor. Although Nuttall ruled himself out of September’s leadership race, he has now reversed his decision (possibly under pressure from Farage). With widespread support among both party leaders and the grassroots he is probably the only figure capable of uniting UKIP’s warring factions.
Born into a working class family in Merseyside, Nuttall’s affable demeanour masks a canny political mind. Nuttall was the first within UKIP to specifically target disillusioned northern Labour constituencies and has been central to UKIP’s recent growth. Under his guidance the party has also strategically targeted BNP voters.
Nuttall’s appeal stems from his populism. In October 2015 Nuttall declared that the response of the EU to the refugee crisis was “freedom of movement of Jihad” and has since demanded that the British government release details of where refugees in the UK are being housed. He also advocates banning the burqa.
Nuttall’s punitive platform also advocates reinstating the death penalty, increasing prison capacity and dolling out harsher prison sentences. Nuttall is a member of the Campaign Against Political Correctness (CAPS).
His populist streak draws attention away from his Thatcherite aspirations to privatise the NHS, repeal the hunting ban and bring back grammar schools.
Bookies currently have Nuttall on 1/4 odds.
Raheem Kassam is Farage’s former chief of staff and the current London editor of the extreme right-wing “news” outlet Breitbart Media.
Kassam is easily the most divisive of the current candidates, stating stated that “someone needs to go in” to UKIP “with a big stick”. If successful he is likely to lead a purge of Farage’s enemies.
After telling UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell to “bugger off”, he has stated that Carswell will be ejected from the party unless he publicly apologises for his disagreements with Farage. He also told fellow leadership candidate Suzanne Evans to “f*** off for good” after her spat with Farage led to her suspension from the party. Evans has recently labelled Kassam “toxic” and “far right”.
Kassam’s twitter account is a reliable stream of foul discriminatory abuse, using the platform to question whether Labour MP Angela Eagle had “special needs”, accusing the BBC of “tranny-pushing” and telling Sky News presenter Kay Burley that she wore “stripper heels”.
Kassam is more radical than even Paul Nuttall, having addressed the first UK rally of Tommy Robinson’s far-right group Pegida and claiming that former BNP members should be allowed to join UKIP on a “case by case” basis. Kassam and his Breitbart propaganda machine are vocal supporters of Donald Trump, modelling his slogan - “Make UKIP Great Again” – on Trump’s controversial campaign.
Despite several allegations of theft, blackmail, extortion and multiple accounts of fraud from former employer The Commentator, Kassam does have the support of UKIP’s influential donor Arron Banks, who is desperate to eject Carswell and Evans from the party.
Kassam is also likely to mobilise the vocal and radically right-wing elements within UKIP’s Young Independents youth movement.
Bookies currently have Kassam on 5/1 odds.
Parliamentary spokesperson Suzanne Evans was once the chosen heir of Farage and fleetingly became leader after he stepped down after the 2015 General Election. A bitter dispute has since erupted between Evans and Farage, and her ensuing suspension led to her disqualification from the summer leadership race. The NEC has now ruled that Evans is allowed to run as a candidate.
Evans is seen as a moderate within UKIP, and has appealed to UKIP to “break free of its hard-right image” and called for more “compassionate, centre-ground” policies. She has however indicated that this would be a “tough centre that controls borders” rather than the “wishy washy” policies of the Liberal Democrats. She supports an Australian-style points system for migrants.
Evans is prone to media blunders, attracting controversy after she claimed the lack of UKIP support in London was because the capital was more “media-savvy and educated”. She also came under fire after blaming the housing shortage on immigration whilst owning two houses herself with a share in a third occupied by her daughter.
Whilst she is a capable politician, having assembled UKIP’s manifesto at the 2015 General Election, her longstanding rift with Farage have made her unpopular with much of the grassroots.
Current bookies odds are at 7/1.
Peter Whittle is UKIP’s group leader in the London Assembly, current culture spokesman and a former journalist. He also ran for London mayor during the summer and picked up a dismal 3.6% of the vote.
Whittle has previously raised eyebrows when he rallied to defend UKIP candidate who compared gay people to child abusers and labelled same-sex adoption “child trafficking”. Whittle is openly gay himself.
Whilst Whittle is reasonably well-known within London, he remains virtually anonymous outside of the capital.
Bookies have Whittle on 20/1 odds.
John Rees-Evans is a former parliamentary candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth.
Rees-Evans is a minor figure within UKIP and primarily known for his extraordinary claim that a “homosexual donkey” tried to rape his horse, a comment made in response to a question about whether some gay men prefer sex with animals. He recently issued a reluctant apology for this claim.
The defence-obsessed ex-soldier has migrated to Bulgaria, and has given details of his heavily-fortified underground bunker in a bizarre profile in VICE, saying “I prefer to go overboard and cultivate a paranoia that’s not naturally mine”.
The competitive speed pistol shooter also raised eyebrows when he admitted taking a handgun into an IKEA branch in Bulgaria.
Rees-Evans’ chances of success are minute, as remains largely unknown to both party members and the public.
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