New chief next week for troubled Ukip

LONDON • Britain's anti-EU party Ukip will announce a new leader next Monday to succeed Mr Nigel Farage and seek to unite a party beset by infighting and division despite its Brexit victory.

Since his resignation following Britain's European Union referendum in June, Mr Farage has ridden the wave of his campaign's success to the United States where he emerged as a keen ally of President-elect Donald Trump.

But his UK Independence Party has been reeling from internal crises, including high-profile resignations and claims of misappropriated EU funds.

Three candidates are now competing for the leadership - former deputy leader Paul Nuttall, former deputy chairman Suzanne Evans and party activist John Rees-Evans - with the winner to be announced next Monday after a vote by party members. Ballots for the contest closed yesterday.

Mr Nuttall, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and firm favourite for the job, has pledged to "unite the party" if elected, demanding an end to "infighting and squabbling".

Ms Evans, a former BBC radio reporter and Mr Nuttall's closest challenger, says the party must broaden its appeal to include women and minorities, in order to win seats in Parliament.

Mr Farage, who has been backed by Mr Donald Trump to be Britain's next US ambassador, in a spoof of the 1990s Ferrero Rocher ad - that was set at an "ambassador's reception" and included the oft-quoted line "You are really spoiling us" - during a par
Mr Farage, who has been backed by Mr Donald Trump to be Britain's next US ambassador, in a spoof of the 1990s Ferrero Rocher ad - that was set at an "ambassador's reception" and included the oft-quoted line "You are really spoiling us" - during a party at the Ritz hotel in London on Wednesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Meanwhile the candidacy of Mr Rees-Evans, a businessman and former soldier, has been largely overshadowed by his call to bring back the death penalty for paedophiles.

The leadership vote follows the resignation last month of Mr Farage's successor, Ms Diane James, after only 18 days in the job and her subsequent departure from the party on Monday.

She said her relationship with the party had become "increasingly difficult" and she had "no support within the executive".

The favourite to replace her, Mr Steven Woolfe, quit last month following an altercation with a fellow MEP at the European Parliament that left him hospitalised - a further embarrassment for Ukip.

"I have come to the conclusion that Ukip is ungovernable without Nigel Farage leading it and the referendum cause to unite it," Mr Woolfe said in a statement published online.

Mr Farage stepped into the breach as interim leader after Ms James' resignation but ruled out returning longer-term, having achieved his life mission when Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'New chief next week for troubled Ukip'. Print Edition | Subscribe