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Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott to stand for leadership amid row over contest rules

Published 11/07/2016

Suzanne Evans said the decision was
Suzanne Evans said the decision was "ridiculous"

Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott has announced his candidacy for the leadership, amid furore over new rules for the contest which will block many of the party's best-known figures from standing.

The Eurosceptic party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) has said all candidates to replace Nigel Farage must have been a member for at least five years.

It means Ukip's only MP, Douglas Carswell, ex-MP Mark Reckless and prominent former spokeswoman Suzanne Evans, who is temporarily suspended from the party, will not be able to enter the contest.

Ms Evans said the decision was "ridiculous" and accused the NEC of "changing the rules as it goes along".

She said: " I cannot imagine a decision more ridiculous and more likely to bring Ukip into disrepute than one which means people such as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, our current and former MPs, and the latter also a Welsh AM, cannot stand, despite the huge dedication they have shown to the party and their current elected positions.

"I hope the new leader will allow members to attend NEC meetings unless confidential information is being discussed; publish the minutes; and set up a 'right of recall' so NEC members are accountable to members.

"At the moment, frankly, by operating in secret; changing the rules as it goes along; and being totally unaccountable, it is behaving like the EU."

North-East MEP Mr Arnott, 35, said he wanted to appeal to the millions of voters who did not support Ukip in the general election but backed Brexit in last month's referendum.

He warned that the elevation of Theresa May to the premiership meant that "negotiations for the UK's withdrawal from the EU will be in the hands of those who do not actually want us to leave".

With Labour in disarray, Ukip was "the only alternative to the establishment and will be the only unifying force for Brexit", said the former Ukip general secretary and maths teacher.

"There are many challenges that lie ahead but first we must hold the Government's feet to the fire to enact the will of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit in the referendum," he added.

Candidates must pay a £5,000 deposit to enter the contest, which will be refunded if they secure at least 5% of the vote.

Nominations, which need to be backed by a proposer and 50 supporters from at least 10 branches, opened on Monday and will close on July 31.

During August, regional hustings will be held before the count and declarations are held on September 15.

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