It is clear that the party is heading towards a leadership contest and that it is going to be a particularly bitter and divisive one, regardless of the intentions of all those involved. The following comments are intended to form a summary to ensure all members and supporters have the same information that is flowing from the various parties and sources.
To date we have 7 who have declared a position or who are ‘actively’ considering their position.
Bill Etheridge Declared on the Sunday Politics that he would be a candidate
Liz Jones On a separate BBC program said she was actively considering her position
Raheem Kassam Has confirmed his intention to run and is campaigning on social media
Steven Woolfe He declared on the day after the Diane James resignation and there has been some social media activity but little since the altercation in Strasbourg
Suzanne Evans There is evidence that she is going to run mow that her suspension is over, but nothing from Evans directly
Nigel Farage Made himself Interim leader very quickly but has gone on record that he will not come back
Paul Nuttall He said categorically in July he would not stand. I know he has been spoken to again and the old adage of never say never. However I understand he has been asked again about his intentions but no decision was forthcoming.
Lisa Duffy Ran last time and has not declared either way on any potential re-run
Looking at the party there is a very small number of people who could do the job. The potential candidates listed above come from a very small pool of potential candidates and I have not listed the ones who have either excluded themselves (e.g. Douglas Carswell) or who ran last time and have either said nothing or have excluded themselves from running again (Phillip Broughton)
The question of the rules governing the contest is being raised on social media already, mostly on behalf of Steven Woolfe by his supporters. The “Woolfe Pack” is less well organised this time and has been knocked back on its heels. Until yesterday there seemed to be an intention to run a unity candidate, Bill Etheridge referred to this in his interview with Andrew Neil. That is now off the table, or so it seems from what Bill Etheridge said on the Sunday Politics.
The question of Woolfe’s candidacy will be the thorny issue. There are demands being made again from the same groups and people that Woolfe be allowed to stand. No one to date from the NEC, as far as I can see, has said anything but they are clearly trying to preempt any decision particularly over the Strasbourg incident. Those members who favour anyone else other than Woolfe are putting forward the defection issue as more important than any altercation between the two MEP’s.
The papers are running stories about other matters concerning Woolfe. The Mirror ran a story about an ‘altercation’ at a football event in Chester from which Woolfe was ejected after a run in with the local Liberal Democrat candidate. Woolfe’s team refused, according to the Mirror, to comment. There was a suggestion that alcohol was involved but again there was no comment about this as well. Other rumours abound but there is serious concern being shown by the more sensible members of the party over Woolfe’s own admission that he was actively considering defecting to the Conservatives. It is also worth noting that many ordinary members consider his revelation that he was going to go is sufficient for them to withdraw support from him as a potential leader.
The press, from the Mail to the Huffpost, is also pushing the defection angle. There are reports from at least three papers/news outlets in the Chester area. They of course are only interested in a story and many in the press want an anti-UKIP story but they are right in asking the question about his suitability to be leader. This is not the first time that a story from the man himself has done both him and the party damage. In the run up to the close of nominations the papers ran with his failure to declare his conviction when required to do so, this is a simple point. It is also a question which has been asked but not yet answered by the Woolfe camp; did he declare the conviction on his party application form before the 2012 selection process, never mind the legal requirement to do so for the PCC application.
Finally on the Steven Woolfe matter, there have already been rumours circulating about the NEC’s intentions to suspend one or both of the participants involved in the pugilistic event last week. The NEC will be in a cleft stick here and need to deal with both matters together rather than separately as any individual suspension will be viewed with great suspicion as an attempt to stop one or other candidate running.
As a starting field we have 7 possible candidates. All have points to commend them. It will be for members to decide once they have heard all the facts.
Finally to quote John Bickley;
“The next Leader must be someone who’s bulletproof, has no baggage that our enemies can seize on (like breaking electoral law) & must be loyal to the Party, not looking for the next ‘chance’ with the Tories or Labour”