UKIP Seeks Third Leader in Three Weeks After James Quits

  • ‘Personal and professional reasons’ cited for resignation
  • Nigel Farage rules out potential return to former post

Diane James.

Photographer: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The U.K. Independence Party is beginning the search for a new leader following the resignation of Diane James just 18 days after she succeeded Nigel Farage, who helped shape the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

In a statement on her Twitter account, the 56-year-old member of the EU Parliament said late Tuesday that since her election as leader of the anti-immigration party “it has become clear that I do not have the sufficient authority, nor the full support” of UKIP lawmakers and party officers to reform the party.

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She said that for “personal and professional reasons” she would step down. UKIP Chairman Paul Oakden said in a statement that the decision was “unfortunate” and that he plans to convene an emergency meeting of the party’s national executive committee to set in motion the process of picking her replacement.

The latest developments add to questions about the future direction of the party since Farage stepped down. UKIP emerged as a serious political force under him, tapping into a strong anti-establishment mood to drum up support among disillusioned voters angry about the free movement of EU citizens. The void at the top may hamper its chances of competing with the main opposition Labour Party for working-class voters.

First to declare his bid to fill that void was Steven Woolfe, UKIP’s migration and financial affairs spokesman. Woolfe was an early front-runner in the contest to replace Farage but was left off the list of candidates after missing the nominations deadline by 17 minutes. He blamed “technical problems” on UKIP’s website.

“Only a strong UKIP can guarantee Brexit is delivered in full,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “We can replace Labour as the main opposition party. We can build on our remarkable achievements, stand up for the ignored working class and secure a radically different political landscape in Britain for a generation.”

Farage told the BBC he won’t run for the top job again despite being interim leader of the party. Neil Hamilton, UKIP’s leader in Wales, also ruled himself out, describing the job as a potential “horror story.” He said he would back Farage’s deputy Paul Nuttall for the job, despite him not having run last time around.

Another potential contender, Lisa Duffy, the runner-up to James in the most recent election, said she doesn’t rule out running again.

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