The short answer to the question is: no one really knows. And to the Douglas Carswells and Suzanne Evans of the world reading this: you don’t know either.
And the reason I can say that – having given it a bit of thought – is because there are too many variables involved now.
I’m told of briefings and counter-briefings, aggression, surreptitious fundraising, plots, slates, and more. It’s all going a bit House of Cards, without the attractive people, or wit, or knowing complexity.
There’s plenty of intrigue though. Topped off by Paul Nuttall, the favourite, dropping out of the race yesterday.
It was even surprising to even those at the top of the food chain in UKIP. Just a few days ago Team Nuttall were phoning around Westminster journalists trying to pitch negative stories about Steven Woolfe MEP. Now he’s out?
And just a week after saying that he supported the party allowed Suzanne Evans to stand in the election, despite the party rule book being very clear on the issue. (No surprises therefore that just last night Evans was calling for Farage to be deposed immediately, replaced by Nuttall as “interim leader” who would appoint a new party chairman to lift her suspension.)
Meanwhile, we hear that Mr. Nuttall’s strings have been pulled by Neil Hamilton in Wales – a key ally, at least at a national executive (NEC) level, of Mr. Carswell, who employs Suzanne Evans.
And the other person who employs Suzanne Evans is Patrick O’Flynn MEP – whose staff set up an ‘O’Flynn For Leader’ Twitter account recently, which seems to focus its fire on Faragistas (including me).
But Patrick is on the record as having said he doesn’t want to be the leader himself, but rather, the “close adviser” to the next leader. And he supports Suzanne too.
And finally, I’ve learned that the party chairman Steve Crowther has received a number of representations from Evans-supporting branch members and leaders demanding the party break its own rules and allow her on the ballot.
This can lead to one of two scenarios: the NEC rejects the lobbying (instigated by Evans herself, by the way) or throws the party’s rulebook out of the window, effectively allowing anyone to stand. Because if they can ignore one rule, they’ll have to ignore all rules (get ready for Al Murray for leader).
This is why the betting markets have seen an uptick in money placed on Evans in the past 24 hours. Because there is no doubt some funny business going on and who’s behind it? Well I couldn’t possibly comment. But as I said earlier, Carswell can’t be sure of his strategy because there are too many variables.
As for who else might stand? Steven Woolfe appears to be gaining confidence. Arron Banks is probably not going to stand. Diane James, I’m told, is out. And Lisa Duffy (whose allies have briefed her local paper that she is “certain” to win) is probably stupid enough to stand but not stupid enough to think she can win.
And yours truly? Well that’s down to whether or not Evans gets herself on the ballot.
If she does: I’m in. And I’ll follow her campaign around the country telling people exactly what she’s done and what she’s trying to do to UKIP.
If not, who am I to stand in the way of Woolfe for leader?