As UKIP moves on from Nigel Farage, there are questions surrounding where they go from here. As Britain gears up for leaving the EU, the party will need a new purpose and direction. Will it continue to go after the anti-immigration vote, snapping up right-wing voters? Or will it try to park their tanks on Labours lawn, switching to a left-wing economic model? Of course, it will all depend on who they choose as leader. And therefore, I must ask, who will be the person to save UKIP?
The front-runner for the job is Diane James, MEP for South East England. Ms James has only been in her position for two years, having previously been an independent councillor. Before entering politics she had a successful career in healthcare, which spanned thirty years. She very nearly became an MP, winning nearly 30% of the vote in the 2014 Eastleigh by-election. During this election Nigel Farage called her a ‘very good candidate’ and it seems the pair have held a very strong relation ever since. Having previously ruled herself out for the position, it was only revealed she would run for leader after nominations closed. This sparked rumours that she was pushed into running by Farage supporters, who had seen their candidate Steven Woolfe expelled from running. Just like any good UKIP representative though, James isn’t short of any controversy. She has previously declared her admiration for Vladimir Putin, as well as claiming Eastern European immigration should be cut as they, “Don’t speak our language.” Despite this, Diane James most definitely looks like the most competent leader in waiting, with a wealth of experience behind her. If UKIP wish to remain a serious and mainstream party, it looks like Diane James may be a sensible choice for leader.
If there is any candidate that can triumph the sensible choice, it is one who can appeal to the grassroots of a party. And Lisa Duffy, a district councillor for Ramsay, is determined to have that appeal. Standing on a joint ticket with Patrick O’Flynn MEP, she has revealed right wing policies that has left some UKIP members desperate to see more. She has announced a war on Islamic extremism, standing on a platform that includes the partial banning of the veil and closing down Muslim faith schools. This has led fellow leadership candidate Bill Etheridge claiming she was chasing the ‘bigot vote’, as well as commentators likening her to Donald Trump. It seems that elected Duffy would push UKIP further to the right, potentially going after a core vote strategy. However, she is also pushing for an improved NHS and her running mate O’Flynn is known to have socialist tendencies, previously pushing for a higher VAT rate for luxury goods. If Duffy appears to be tough on law and order but economically socialist she could win over some Labour support within their heartlands and help push UKIP back up the polls. To do this, however, she must back away from extremist policies and ensure she doesn’t get too involved in the heated debate on Islam.
Another controversial candidate standing for the UKIP leadership is Bill Etheridge, on a joint ticket with Mike Hooken MP. Etheridge has been a staunch critic of Lisa Duffy, claiming she is ‘singling out Islam’ and claiming some of her policies are ‘outrageous.’ However, he actually advocates banning the burqa himself, as well as restoring the death penalty and abolishing ‘sin taxes’ and hence may see some popularity among the grassroots. This does not mean, however, that they will agree with everything he says. As a libertarian, he supports gay marriage, wish may clash with some of the more conservative voters in the party. Etheridge claims he wants to be the candidate who works ‘against the establishment,’ wishing to win as many Brexit votes as possible. And just like any good UKIP candidate, he hasn’t been short of controversy in the past. Whether it posing with a gollywog or encouraging people to look up Hitler speeches, Etheridge is definitely not the squeaky clean candidate. Despite being an outsider, he may appeal to a section of the party, although may have cast his net too far to win over a substantial vote share.
One of the most unlikely candidates to stand for the leadership is Phillip Broughton. He isn’t actually an elected representative, failing to win the Hartlepool seat in the 2015 General Election. His inexperience has shown at times during the leadership contest, with him failing to win over any big slots within the mainstream media, unlike some of his rivals. He does however, have some red meat to entice the grassroots within his manifesto. Lower taxes, a stronger defence and tougher law and order should please the members who will have the chance to elect him. He does, however, insist that the party has to change and appeal to a wider band of voters with a broader message to sell. Furthermore, he’s called for an end to the aggressive politics that has occasionally engulfed the party, distancing himself from Lisa Duffy’s comments regarding Muslim faith schools. Despite having a strong message to sell to UKIP members and offering good rhetoric concerning the party’s future, it is likely that inexperience will get the better of Broughton.
Last but not least of the six candidates for the UKIP leadership is Liz Jones. Although Phillip Broughton may not have been launched into the media limelight, even he has outshone Jones on media. Her most famous incident came when she snapped during a radio interview, bellowing, “Will you just shut up?” and going on to say she would not tolerate the left wing shouting her down anymore. This, of course, may not play well with Labour voters. Bar a few internal changes, there is no real policies she has declared, announcing she would stick mostly to the 2015 UKIP General Election manifesto. Liz Jones comes last on media attention and it is likely she will come last in the UKIP leadership contest.
As UKIP members come to elect their leader, they must choose what quality is more important in a candidate; electability or ideology. In the upcoming leadership election, it is likely that half of the candidates will fall at the first hurdle. Messrs Etheridge, Broughton and Jones are all long shots and as we get closer to Election Day, it looks likely to stay that way unless something big happens. Lisa Duffy will fancy her chances, although if she does win, it is questionable how far she could take UKIP as she would likely be following a core vote strategy. The presumed winner Diane James will be a safe pair of hands, although it is unclear what her electoral strategy is. And just like any good UKIP representative, she has been involved in past controversies that the media will have a frenzy over. However, she looks the only credible candidate to help take the party forward and continue their recent electoral success. Step forward Diane James; the chosen one.