Steven Woolfe MEP has confirmed that he will be challenging for leadership of the UK Independence Party, following the resignation of fellow MEP Diane James as leader last night.
Confirming that he would be throwing his hat in the ring, Mr. Woolfe told Sky News he had taken the decision to do so “based on the number of emails and telephone calls for members [who] have asked me to stand again”.
Mr. Woolfe was widely seen as the front-runner in the lead-up to UKIP’s previous leadership election, held less than three weeks ago, but was disqualified from taking part in the race after the party ruled he had not submitted his application on time.
He accused the party of sabotaging his application, by delaying acceptance of the fee payable by candidates who wished for their names to go forward in the race.
Mr. Woolfe alluded to his run in with the party’s governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), during his interview with Sky News, saying that the Committee “makes it incredibly difficult for the elected politicians to be able to do their jobs”.
In her resignation, Ms. James also alluded to difficulties with the NEC, telling The Times: “It has become clear that I do not have sufficient authority, nor the full support of all my MEP colleagues and party officers to implement changes I believe necessary and upon which I based my campaign.”
As a mixed-race candidate from a working class background, and as a politician with libertarian leanings, many within UKIP feel that he could create a fresh image for the party, which has suffered from being the target of a relentless campaign to discredit it by establishment politicians and media over the last few years.
He told Sky News that he wanted to speak to the 17 million people who voted for Brexit, as well as the 4 million who voted for UKIP at the last election, “and say that there is a party out there who is going to consider the issues of social mobility.
“We’re going to challenge in the northern areas where I was born and brought up and say ‘there is a party that’s been listening to you for a long time and we’re now going to make sure that the policies work for you too.”
Fellow MEP Bill Etheridge has also confirmed that he “is of a mind to” re-run for leader. He came third in the last election round, securing 13.7 per cent of members’ votes.