I didn’t expect Nigel Farage to resign as leader of UKIP, but having listened to his LBC radio show on Sunday, I can understand why he has stood aside, particularly since he has received death threats during his time as leader.
I feel like I’ve gone into a political limbo. Last time he resigned I was one of the people who wrote to him and asked him to stay on as Leader, but alas I think this time it really is the end for the charismatic leader. He has achieved what he set out to do in politics - namely, to take Britain out of the European Union. The European parliament may have been laughing at him when he first walked in all those years ago, but they certainly are not laughing now.
What next for Farage?
Despite his resignation, he still has a role to play as an MEP in the European parliament. Until Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty has been activated, he has said he will watch the negotiations 'like a hawk'. Even though the referendum brought the result I desired, it has created political chaos in the UK, including this rather unexpected resignation of the man I voted for, and continue to support.
Where does UKIP go from here?
Farage is like marmite: you either really like the man, or you can’t stand him. Despite this, (and having the whole machinery of the establishment against him) Farage has left UKIP in very good health. The party has a record number of members in the Welsh Assembly, and is now a formidable opposition in the Labour heartlands of the north of England.
How they convert this support into winning votes and seats under the first past the post is the big question here. For me, much is going to rest on the next leader, and in what direction that person decides to take the party. I certainly don’t want to see UKIP turn into another establishment-style party without a sense of identity. Domestic policy will still need to be built around the need for our country to control immigration, and have low taxes for those on low wages. A tune which I think will play rather well in old Labour seats.
Who could stand for Leader?
The party has decided that in order to stand for leader, the candidate should have been a member of UKIP for at least five years. Before this announcement, UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell ruled himself out of running for leadership. Additionally, Carswell has had ongoing disagreements with Farage . Consequently, the initial excitement over Carswell's defection from the Tories has disintegrated.
Then there is Suzanne Evans, who has been making it clear for quite a while that she would stand for leader if Farage ever did resign. I’ve spoken to quite a few supporters of the party and she does seem quite popular. However, with the five-year membership rule, and her ongoing suspension from the party, it seems unlikely she will be able to stand.
Steven Woolfe - UKIP’s immigration spokesperson - is another candidate to consider.
Woolfe is an elected MEP, and even as a relative outsider I can see he is well respected inside the party. Additionally, he handles the media with a calm and assuring authority. Anyone who can front the seemingly controversial part of UKIPs manifesto must have the qualities to lead a political party.
There are other experienced heads in the party. The likes of Neil Hamilton, Tim Aker and Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall. I certainly don’t think the party is as threadbare on talent as certain media circles would have you believe. Nevertheless, Nuttall has also ruled himself out as a contender for party leadership. However, the betting list released before the membership rule change made for interesting reading, and there was one particular candidate on the list who really did excite me, and is certainly worth a mention.
Raheem Kassam is currently at 16/1 odds of becoming UKIP’s next leader. Kassam is the current Editor- in-Chief of Breitbart London, and, like Farage, certainly doesn’t seem shy about expressing his views. As a left field candidate, if he was allowed to run, it would have added an interesting twist to the race.
I do not know who I will be supporting in the future, and I don’t feel this decision on the leadership race has enhanced my feeling for UKIP. In fact, this has turned me off UKIP a little. I suppose it is a reflection of the uncertainty created by the vote to leave the EU. Nevertheless, I would like to say thank you to Farage, although I get a feeling he will not be going quietly.
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