As with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, there has been rife discussion and speculation as to who will be the next party leader of UKIP after Nigel Farage announced he was stepping down after failing to win the Thanet South seat.
With very few high profile UKIP members and only one UKIP MP, there is not a huge pool of potential leaders. Despite stepping down, he has also said that he would not rule out putting his name forward for party leader again in September. He told BBC News that
“There will be a leadership election for the next leader of UKIP in September and I will consider over the course of this summer whether to put my name forward to do that job again”.
Farage is recommending Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman, to be stand-in leader until the new leader is chosen, so she could be a strong contender. So let’s delve more deeply into who might take over and why:
Suzanne has been a member of UKIP for two years after defecting from the Conservative Party. Suzanne is Farage’s deputy chairman and oversaw the launch of the UKIP manifesto. She won 14.4% in Shrewsbury & Atcham which was surprising as it was never a UKIP target. She is often viewed far more positively than other UKIP members for her diligence and calm, unthreatening manner. Farage has previously claimed that young women are now voting for the party, and if the new UKIP leader was a woman this might give this statement some credibility. She is currently favourite to win at the bookies, with 4/7 on Bet365 and 5/6 at William Hill.
Re-elected in Clacton and now UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell is also a defector from the Conservative Party. He is perhaps the most well-known and high profile candidate for UKIP leadership, and is thought to be engaging and well-respected by the media. Carswell is quite classically liberal, which might not match voters in the north. Because he only defected from the Conservatives a year ago, it may look bad on him if he were to run for party leadership. Despite ruling himself out, he is a favourite for the next leader alongside Suzanne Evans, but bookies have him at lightly less likely odds with 9/4 on Bet365 and 8/13 at Betfair. Looks like the bookies think politicians lie for some reason.
Paul Nuttall is the antithesis of Farage, which may work very well with working class voters. He was educated at a comprehensive school and comes from a working class background wherein his family were Labour supporters. His leadership would focus on overturning Labour in the north, and is often credited as the architect of UKIPs northern strategy. He has been Farage’s deputy for the last five years, an MEP for North West England with a UKIP membership longer than the other favourites to win, and the only one from a non-Conservative background. However, he has the potential to be a far more controversial character than Farage as a supporter of reintroducing the death penalty for child murderers, serial killers and those who murder police officers. He also has a Catholic background and advocates limiting abortion to the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. There would be some friction between Nuttall and his only MP Carswell, as Nuttall would be contending with Carswell’s classic liberalism. His odds of leadership are 7/1 at William Hill.
One of the outside bets is another Conservative defector Mark Reckless. However, following his defeat in Rochester and Strood to Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst, leadership is looking less likely. He was previously ruled the 13th most rebellious Tory between 2010 and 2014 after leading rebellions and voting against the party whip 56 times in these four years – while some may see this as very endearing and integral, others may worry he would rebel too much in leadership. His odds are 14/5 at Betfair.
Nigel Farage stood down for a year and was re-elected in 2010 before, so he could do it again. He said he will consider standing for leadership in September over the summer, but argues that he would like at least a couple of months off, as according to him, he has not had a two-week holiday since 1993. Many may adhere to the “better the devil you know” mode of thinking in this leadership contest. His odds are 4/6 at Betfair.
UPDATE: As of 11th May, UKIP rejected Farage’s resignation, so he remains leader of UKIP, at the very least for now.
UKIP Chairman Steve Crowther said in a statement:
“As promised Nigel Farage tendered his official resignation as leader of UKIP to the NEC. This offer was unanimously rejected by the NEC members who produced overwhelmingly evidence that the UKIP membership did not want Nigel to go.
On that basis Mr Farage withdrew his resignation and will remain leader of UKIP. In addition the NEC recognised that the referendum campaign has already begun this week and we need our best team to fight that campaign led by Nigel. He has therefore been persuaded by the NEC to withdraw his resignation and remains leader of UKIP”.
So I guess the answer to this question is… Nigel Farage, Again.