A former Lord Mayor of London is now the hot tip to replace Kerry Smith as UKIP candidate in Basildon. Alderman Ian Luder applied for the seat at the first selection but was beaten by Natasha Bolter.
Since the selection both Bird and Bolter have been removed from their respective positions. The seat was originally thought to be within the reach of former Tory MP Neil Hamilton, but he pulled out of the process. Then it was the turn of the 2010 candidate Kerry Smith, who resigned in disgrace because of comments he had made about Chinese and gay people during a telephone call. He will now run as an independent.
With Bolter, Hamilton and Smith out of running Luder is now being tipped as the next UKIP candidate. He has already stood down as Chairman of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This is significant because members of NHS boards cannot take seats in the House of Commons.
Luder was Lord Mayor of London from 2008 to 2009, and entered the public psyche because Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to give him a knighthood at the end of his term. Brown broke the tradition of giving the title to the outgoing Lord Mayor because of the role of City of London bankers in the financial crisis. Luder ended up with a CBE, despite having absolutely no role in the regulation of banks.
He is also considered the one of the most senior non-parliamentary defector to UKIP. He was a Labour Councillor in Bedford for 23 years and stood for the party in 1979 general election. After ceasing to be Lord Mayor he continued his role on the 25-strong City of London upper house: the Court of Aldermen.
UKIP are remaining tight lipped about the selection process but Luder is seen as a safe pair of hands. His adoption will avoid further headaches for the UKIP leadership, who are said to fear losing the seat because of confusion about who to run.