Nigel Farage's 'low grade' comments start Ukip leadership contest in style
Ukip's leadership contest begins with an entertaining diatribe by its outgoing talisman.
The first two leadership contests of the summer have set a high bar – but the Ukip contest, which gets underway tomorrow, could still prove to be the most entertaining of them all.
Opening skirmishes after Nigel Farage resigned saw a plethora of candidates declare an interest before quickly deciding it was not for them.
Many then threw their weight behind North West MEP Steven Woolfe, a 48-year-old barrister and assured media performer who boasts of his multi-cultural background and early years growing up on a Manchester council estate. See here for his interview with Total Politics this weekend.
This weekend questions were raised about whether he would be allowed to contest the role after he submitted his application 17 minutes late, blaming technical issues.
But this afternoon his name was on an official list of applicants which will go before the party’s ruling national executive committee tomorrow, alongside six others, for a final decision over eligibility.
Those applicants include Diane James – a fellow MEP and former high-profile byelection candidate – and Lisa Duffy, a previously unknown councillor who has been winning endorsements from modernisers such as suspended former deputy chairwoman, Suzanne Evans.
But what makes this race particularly entertaining will be the gung-ho interventions of the party’s elder statesmen, with rivalries and bitter divisions likely to be played out in public.
Nigel Farage set the tone today, writing that the members of the party’s NEC are “among the lowest grade of people I have ever met”. He told the Breitbart website:
“The barrier to radical change and the modernisation of UKIP was implanted in the mid-1990s. It is called the National Executive Committee. Many of its current crop are among the lowest grade of people I have ever met. To them, being a member of the governing body of Britain’s third-largest political party is the equivalent of scaling Everest.”
As if to confirm its reputation, the NEC today threatened to expel the party’s leader in Wales, Nathan Gill, for ‘double jobbing’ – working as both an MEP and as a Welsh Assembly member.
Gill hit back, a spokesman telling the BBC he was “extremely alarmed by this demand”.
It led another of the party’s MEPs, former communications chief Patrick O’Flynn, to tweet: “Seeing as we were instrumental in the greatest political change in decades, it is only fitting that everyone in Ukip is in such a good mood.”
And with many more of Ukip’s big beasts yet to make significant interventions, including Neil Hamilton, who Farage today described as “disgraced”, it’s already shaping up to be another fun contest for Westminster watchers.
Campaigning will take place throughout August with ballot papers being issued on September 1. The new Ukip leader will be announced at its conference on September 15 in Bournemouth.
Candidates going forward to the NEC are: Jonathan Arnott, Phillip Broughton, Lisa Duffy, Bill Ethridge, Diane James, Liz Jones and Steven Woolfe.
Picture by: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP/Press Association Images