Nigel Farage is trying to block Suzanne Evans from becoming Ukip candidate for Mayor of London with a covert campaign to install a less threatening, loyal party colleague in her place, sources have told Coffee House.
Ukip will select its mayoral candidate this weekend. Evans is the bookies’ favourite and the best-known outside the party. But it has moved from a one member one vote system within the London party for picking its choice for the mayoral elections to a private selection. The six-strong panel for the selection includes a number of Farage loyalists, including Chris Bruni-Lowe, Paul Oakden and Mick McGough.
Party insiders are furious that this panel seems to be set up to deliver the candidate the leader, rather than the wider party, wants. They allege that Farage is trying to install Peter Whittle, Ukip’s culture spokesman, as the mayoral candidate because he doesn’t pose the same threat to Farage as Evans does.
Evans was widely talked about as Farage’s natural successor after writing what the party leader himself hailed as an ‘excellent manifesto’ for the general election. But she then fell victim to the party’s infighting when Farage resigned and then un-resigned following the election.
A senior Ukip insider told Coffee House: ‘It looks like a stitch-up, and smells like a stitch up. I just hope it isn’t one.’
But party sources argued that the OMOV system had been dropped because it had led to a very poor outcome in the 2012 contest: ‘It was a disaster. Our London campaign the last time around was shambolic. We didn’t get on the ballot paper.’ The source also pointed out that it would be odd for the selection panel not to include Farage loyalists, given he is leader. All the London chairmen will be involved and the members have been invited to take part as well.
When approached for comment, Evans said: ‘I’ve heard some London members are concerned that the one member, one vote we had in the 2012 elections isn’t going to happen this time. I think that’s a shame personally, but while I’m not entirely sure how the selection is going to work or who is on the panel, I trust they’ll have the interests of the party at heart and select whichever candidate is the best for the job. I’m certainly going to give it my best shot.’