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Ukip leader Diane James promises 'new era' - but with Farage in tow

Published 16/09/2016

Nigel Farage resigned after winning the Brexit referendum
Nigel Farage resigned after winning the Brexit referendum

Ukip's new leader Diane James is facing claims she will find it "difficult to define herself" as predecessor Nigel Farage said he was "not going away".

Ms James insisted she was a "new leaf, new book, new era" and dismissed suggestions the outgoing leader would be a backseat driver.

But she admitted Mr Farage would offer "help" and said she would be "absolutely nuts" to ignore it.

Ms James had been urged to find a way to reunite the party after months of bitter divisions among its most senior figures.

But within an hour of her leadership victory she took the decision to wipe Neil Hamilton from the agenda for Saturday's speakers at the party's annual conference, which is being held in Bournemouth.

The leader of Ukip's Welsh group, who Mr Farage has been fiercely critical of, has been replaced by a ten minute coffee break and a five minute speech by Nathan Gill, the man he ousted.

Mr Hamilton, who only found out about the so-called purge after being told by reporters, said it was a "rather bizarre way" to unite a party.

He added: "I've been replaced by ten minutes of coffee and five minutes of Nathan Gill. At least the coffee would keep you awake."

Mr Hamilton said Ms James would find it "difficult to define herself".

MEP Steven Woolfe told the Press Association that Mr Hamilton was "crying over spilt milk".

He said: "Diane is entitled as a new leader who had no input into who speaks at this conference to have the opportunity to put her stamp on that conference.

"And clearly, if there are people who have been set aside for those changes then we either have to accept it, or we don't accept it and we run away, take our ball and start crying over spilt milk."

He added: "Without a doubt we have had a very difficult summer with the different sides in some cases slugging it out in the press and others slugging it out behind the scenes."

Outgoing deputy leader Paul Nuttall said he fears "for the very future of our party" unless the in-fighting that has racked the organisation is resolved.

He said the party has been plagued by squabbling and division which has left it resembling "a jigsaw that has been emptied on to the floor".

Although Mr Farage did not officially endorse any candidate during the contest, it was clear that he was keen for Ms James to take over.

Mr Farage and his supporters have been at loggerheads with Mr Hamilton, along with the party's only Ukip MP Douglas Carswell and former deputy chairman Suzanne Evans.

Asked if she would attempt to build bridges with Mr Carswell, she replied: "If Douglas would like to suggest a meeting I would happily entertain it."

Ms James said party members who wanted to oppose her plans to reform party structures "may wish to seek a different party affiliation".

The new leader insisted she was "not Nigel-like, I am not even Nigel-lite" and would "never ever pretend to be so".

Mr Farage said earlier he was "not going away" but would "support the new leader".

He said: "I'm not giving up on politics completely. As I say, I will support the new leader, I'm going to continue to lead a group in the European Parliament sitting next to Mr Juncker and making my constructive contributions."

Ms James took the party's top job with 8,451 of the 17,970 votes cast in the contest. Lisa Duffy, backed by many in the anti-Farage wing of the party, came second with 4,591. Bill Etheridge followed on 2,052 votes, Phillip Broughton on 1,545 votes and Elizabeth Jones on 1,203 votes. The remaining ballots were spoiled.

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