Saturday 10 December 2016

New Ukip chief quits after just 18 days in the job

Rachel Burnett in London

Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30

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

Diane James has stepped down as Ukip leader after 18 days in the role, a senior party source has said.

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In a statement announcing her decision, Ms James revealed she had not yet formalised her nomination as leader, meaning that she never formally took over from predecessor Nigel Farage after her landslide election on September 16.

In a statement, the 56-year-old MEP for South East England said that it had become clear in discussions with party officials that she did not have "sufficient authority" to push through changes which she had planned.

Ms James, the frontrunner throughout the leadership campaign, was backed by supporters of Mr Farage and Ukip's millionaire funder Arron Banks.

During the contest she promised to have a ''laser focus'' on the Brexit negotiations, but refused to set out any policies, insisting she did not want to make "policy on the hoof".

Ms James first won election to Waverley Borough Council in Surrey as an independent in 2007 after becoming "disillusioned" with the Conservatives.

She switched to Ukip in 2011 and shot to national prominence in 2013 when she fought the parliamentary by-election in Eastleigh, Hampshire, resulting from the downfall of Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who was jailed for lying about a speeding offence.

She came close to taking the seat from the Liberal Democrats, coming second with 27.8pc - fewer than 2,000 votes behind the winning candidate.

Elected

Ms James (56) was elected as an MEP in 2014, as part of the political "earthquake" achieved as Ukip became the first non-mainstream party in modern times to win a national election in the UK.

She was appointed Ukip's deputy chairwoman and home affairs spokeswoman, but stood aside from a planned bid to become an MP in the general election in 2015 for "personal reasons", after being selected as candidate for North West Hampshire.

Ms James raised some eyebrows in a 2015 interview by declaring her admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin, describing him as "a strong leader".

Irish Independent

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