Nigel Farage only resigned as UKIP leader yesterday but already the camps are digging in for the race to become the party’s next leader.
Emotions are high following Farage’s disappointing second position in South Thanet which resulted in him stepping down from the party top spot, at least for the summer, before the party holds a leadership contest in the autumn.
Stepping aside, he proposed Deputy Chairman Suzanne Evans as the interim leader despite her not being an elected politician and only joining the party from the Conservatives in the last few years.
An excellent media performer who stepped in to take over managing the party’s General Election manifesto, Ms Evans said she was “disappointed” that Farage wasn’t elected as the MP for Thanet South but was “honoured” that she had been proposed by him as interim leader of the party.
“However the position is not mine to accept but must go to the National Executive Committee. They will meet in the coming days to decide who the party wants to act in the role of Interim Leader until such time as we organiser a democratic vote of the party to decide an new Leader in due course,” said a statement released on the party’s website.
The choice of Evans might seem obvious for the political glitterati but it has already caused divisions within the party which should be celebrating getting millions of votes and becoming the third party in British politics.
The reason is that Farage has seemingly ignored his deputy leader and the party’s former chairman Paul Nuttall MEP, an exceptionally popular character amongst the party faithful who has the benefit of being a working class northerner, which is where UKIP are getting their votes from.
Unlike Evans, Nuttall is an elected MEP, having been returned to the European Parliament last year after first being elected in 2010. The former history lecturer and semi professional footballer was appointed by Farage to lead the party’s charge in the North of England where he has been hugely successful.
Former Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom told Breitbart London he thought the decision to pass by Nuttall was “shameful.”
“I’m deeply upset about it, and I’m not alone” he said.
“Who and what is this Evans women whose been with UKIP for 5 minutes?”
One MEP who did not want to be named told Brietbart London, “Paul Nuttall as Deputy leader should have immediately become interim leader but instead he was only told that wasn’t the case a few minutes before it was announced that Suzanne Evans had been given the position.”
They said there could be “bloody turmoil” in the leadership battle if London sought to impose a candidate on the rest of the party.
But sources from Mr Farage’s team said the decision was made “purely on logistics” because Mr Nuttall is based in Liverpool currently and works in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Mr Farage, who has made no secret of not enjoying the job of leading UKIP, is said to be very much undecided about his future plans beyond representing the South East constituency in the European Parliament and taking some much needed time off.
Many in the party will not rule out him returning as leader because the decision to step down if he did not win the constituency of Thanet South was taken when the party expected there to be more than one MP in the House of Commons. A leadership battle between the party’s MPs would be a rather easy one to call.
With the situation as it stands, the party’s staffing and publicity budget is still based in Brussels where Mr Farage is President of the EFDD Group in the European Parliament.
Not being an MEP, Ms Evans would have no control of what the party’s MEPs did and certainly would not be in any position to dictate terms to Farage.
Mr Nuttall and his supporters may well be upset by the decision but scratching below the surface it may well be that Mr Farage has made a calculated decision to place the party in a safe, conveniently located pair of hands over the quiet summer months while the party takes a step back and works out what needs to change in order to make it a better fighting machine. That means a new chairman and new staff in the party’s London office as well as ensuring they have a leader who can win the hearts and minds of the working class northern vote as well as the dyed in the wool eurosceptics.