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Diane James quits as UKIP leader

Published 04/10/2016

Diane James was the new leader of Ukip
Diane James was the new leader of Ukip

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

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.

The MEP became the first woman to lead the Eurosceptic party when she won the contest to replace Nigel Farage on September 16.

Ms James, the front-runner 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".

After a career in the healthcare sector, 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 27.8% - fewer than 2,000 votes behind the winning candidate.

Ms James, 56, was elected to the European Parliament as an MEP for South East England 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" who stands up for his country.

Educated at Rochester Girls Grammar School and Thames Valley University, she is a keen dancer who also lists antiques among her interests and speaks French and German.

Her elevation to the leadership meant that Ukip joined the Conservatives, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru in having a female politician at the helm, while the Greens have a woman as job-sharing co-leader.

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