Diane James is standing down as Ukip leader after only 18 days in the job, blaming ‘personal and professional reasons’ and a lack of ‘sufficient authority’ within the party for her decision to quit. James said she didn’t have the backing she needed among fellow Ukip MEPs and party officers, but insisted she would still ‘concentrate fully’ on her role within the European Parliament. In a statement released last night, she said:
‘Having won the enthusiastic support of party members, I was nominated by them as the new leader at the Ukip conference. Since that time, I have been in discussion with party officers about the role. It has become clear that I do not have sufficient authority, nor the full support of all my MEP colleagues and party officers to implement changes I believe necessary’
James was elected to head up the party just over two weeks ago, following a fractious leadership race which saw the frontrunner – Steven Woolfe – excluded from the ballot paper for missing the deadline to submit his paperwork. It’s not known whether Woolfe – who has said that James’s ‘commitment to the party will never be in doubt’ – will throw his hat into the ring for a fresh leadership race, but Ukip sources have suggested Paul Nuttall will definitely run. Lisa Duffy, who came second behind Diane James, also seemed to be lining herself up for a fresh bid for the leadership during her interview on the Today show:
James’s decision to quit comes after she courted controversy in one of her first interviews as Ukip leader, suggesting to Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics that Vladimir Putin was one of her heroes. The Ukip MEP also took the unusual step of running on a ‘no policy’ platform, saying she did not want to develop ideas ‘on the hoof’. And even after winning election, she said she wanted to spend the first 100 days in the post developing her policy platform.
The big question for Ukip now? Who will take over after Diane James following her brief time at the top. The bookies are suggesting Woolfe is the favourite to do so, while Suzanne Evans and Paul Nuttall are also close contenders. You can also expect to hear inevitable rumours that Nigel Farage will return to the fray. The former Ukip leader hinted over the summer that he might possibly consider a return, but only if he thought the Government was attempting to prevaricate over Brexit. But following James’s decision to step aside, Farage has already refused to rule out a return as leader when he spoke to LBC. Could Farage return? In the topsy-turvy world of Ukip party politics, it’s wise to rule nothing out.