Saturday 10 December 2016

Diane James quits as Ukip leader after just 18 days in charge

Rachael Burnett

Published 04/10/2016 | 22:34

File photo dated 16/09/2016 of Diane James celebrating with Nigel Farage after being named as the new leader of Ukip at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth, as she has now quit after just 18 days in charge, a senior party source has said. Photo: PA
File photo dated 16/09/2016 of Diane James celebrating with Nigel Farage after being named as the new leader of Ukip at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth, as she has now quit after just 18 days in charge, a senior party source has said. Photo: PA

Diane James has quit as leader of Ukip after just 18 days in charge, a senior party source has said.

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Ms James was elected successor to Nigel Farage in a landslide victory on September 16.

Reports suggested that she had decided to step down because of her husband's ill health.

There was no immediate response from the party to reports of Ms James's resignation.

Ukip leader Diane James at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, as she has now quit after just 18 days in charge. Photo: PA
Ukip leader Diane James at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, as she has now quit after just 18 days in charge. Photo: PA

An MEP for South East England since 2014, 56-year-old Ms James was the Eurosceptic party's first female leader and won the post by a wide margin after winning the backing of senior Ukip figures including Mr Farage.

But questions were raised about her commitment to the post after she declined to take part in hustings debates around the country with rival candidates.

Reports of Ms James's abrupt departure sparked immediate speculation that Mr Farage might return to lead Ukip for a third time, after stints from 2006-09 and 2010-16.

But asked if he would consider returning as leader, Mr Farage told the Press Association: "Not for ten million dollars."

Read more: Timeline of Ukip's history as Diane James steps down as leader

Asked if he would take 20 million dollars, he said: "No I'm not coming back, I'm retired."

The battle to replace Mr Farage after he quit as leader following the successful campaign for a Leave vote in June's EU referendum exposed bitter divisions within the party.

Frontrunner Steven Woolfe was barred from standing after submitting his nomination papers late, while Suzanne Evans was unable to take part as she was suspended.

The pair were immediately named by bookmakers as favourites in what looks set to be a second leadership election within a matter of weeks, with Ladbrokes putting Mr Farage as a 10-1 shot to return.

In September's election, Ms James took 8,451 out of the 17,970 votes cast, romping home ahead of Lisa Duffy - backed by many in the anti-Farage wing of the party - Bill Etheridge, Phillip Broughton and Elizabeth Jones.

In her acceptance speech, she promised to bring a new professionalism to the party, saying: "We are going to confound our critics, we are going to outwit our opponents, we are going to build on our election success that we have achieved to date and do more."

Rumours were circulating within Ukip that Ms James may also be planning to quit as an MEP.

Reports suggested that she had cancelled a scheduled speech in the European Parliament as well as a meeting with fellow MEPs due to take place on Wednesday.

Ms Evans confirmed that her suspension from Ukip had been lifted, clearing the way for her to enter any leadership race.

But she declined to say whether she was considering throwing her hat into the ring, telling PA: "I think we all need to see what happens over the next few hours."

Press Association

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