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

Published 04/10/2016

Diane James has quit as Ukip leader
Diane James has quit as Ukip leader
Diane James was elected as successor to Nigel Farage

Diane James has quit as leader of Ukip after just 18 days in charge.

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 said she had decided "for personal and professional reasons" not to take up the helm of the party, but would stay on as an MEP.

"It is with great regret that I announce that I will not be formalising my recent nomination to become the new leader of the party with the Electoral Commission," she said.

"Having won the enthusiastic support of party members, I was nominated by them as the new leader at the recent Ukip Bournemouth 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 and upon which I based my campaign.

"For personal and professional reasons, therefore, I will not take the electoral process further.

"I will continue to concentrate fully on my activities and responsibilities as an elected Ukip Member of the European Parliament for South East UK Region.

"This is my final media statement on the issue."

Ms James's shock departure leaves Ukip in disarray, with senior sources unable to say who was now in charge of the Eurosceptic party.

Ukip now faces the prospect of a second leadership contest within the space of weeks, after a divisive race over the summer which exposed deep rifts between rival wings of the party.

Front-runner 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.

But Mr Farage poured cold water on speculation he might return to lead the party for a third time, after stints from 2006-09 and 2010-16, telling the Press Association: "Not for 10 million dollars."

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

One Ukip figure queried Ms James's suggestion that registration with the Electoral Commission was necessary in order to make her leadership official, insisting that she had not been nominated as leader but elected.

An MEP for South East England since 2014, Ms James was the party's first woman 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.

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."

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."

Ukip's only MP, Douglas Carswell, declined to comment on Ms James's resignation, saying in a tweet: "In the middle of supper. Not taking calls about UKIP stuff. It's shepherds pie, by the way."

Ukip chairman Paul Oakden said: "It is with regret that I have tonight received confirmation that Diane James has chosen to resign as party leader, citing personal and other reasons. I will now look to convene an emergency meeting of our National Executive Committee to confirm the process for electing Diane's replacement.

"Whilst the decision is unfortunate, it is one that Diane is entitled to make. We thank her for all her work as leader, and as a hard working MEP, a role she will continue with her customary vigour."

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