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30th Apr 2017

Diane James, new Ukip leader in Farage's shadow

  • Nigel Farage (l) said he will "advise" Ukip's new leader Diane James (r) (Photo: Reuters)

The UK Independence Party (Ukip) has elected Diane James as its new leader on Friday (16 September).

James, a 56-year old member of the European Parliament, won 47 percent of party members votes against four other candidates.

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She succeeds Nigel Farage, who quit as party leader just after the EU referendum in June and backed her for leadership.

As leader of the UK's most eurosceptic party, James' challenge will be influencing the British government's negotiations for its exit from the EU.

"The threats to the referendum outcome are increasing by the day," she warned party members during her acceptance speech in Bournemouth.

She said that with the Brexit vote, Ukip has "only just won a heat in a 28-member state Olympic competition to leave the European Union".

"Until we get a signature, we're still in, they still tell us what to do," she added, referring to the EU.

Ukip, James said, wants a "100% European Union exit."

"Yes to a sovereign independent UK," she said. "Yes to a UK free to make trade deals with whoever and whenever we want and yes to an immigration policy that allows entry regardless of origin to those with the skills and the expertise and the social values that this country wants."

Another challenge for James will be to get more MPs into the British parliament. In the 2015 general election, Ukip was the third-ranking party in terms of votes but, with the first-past-the post system, it got only one MP elected.

With a Labour party divided over its future direction, James expressed her ambition to make Ukip the second party in the country.

Speaking directly to prime minister Theresa May in her speech, she said: "If you're watching TV this afternoon, you'll be watching the opposition party in waiting."

In her leadership, James will have to take account of Farage, the party's co-founder and long time leader.

In a speech before James' election, he said he would "advise" the new leader and remain himself Ukip's leader in the European Parliament.

“I hope to be engaged in political life without leading a political party,” he said, adding that he would be less constrained. "From now on I’m really going to speak my mind.”

He said he would tour Europe to “try and help independence and democracy movements”.

But in another speech highlighting internal tensions in the party, outgoing deputy leader Paul Nuttall said that “Ukip has not been a happy camp for over a year,” and spoke of "a cancer in the heart of the party".

“The new leader will not benefit in any shape or form if any of us attempt to back-seat drive," he said, in a warning to Farage. "Standing down must mean standing down."

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