MEP Diane James has today been chosen as the Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Ms James, the Member of the European Parliament for the South East of England, received 8,451 votes in the public ballot and an imperious popular mandate of 47.5% from UKIP party voters. Her closest rival, Ramsey Councillor Lisa Duffy, only secured 4,591 votes and was subsequently eliminated from the contest.
In her victory speech to party members at the UKIP annual Conference in Bournemouth today, Ms James exclaimed that she was ‘immensely grateful for what you have done and what you have bestowed on me’. She added that UKIP had become the ‘change party of the UK‘ and ‘had moved mountains on the political landscape‘.
UKIP’s leadership throne had been vacant since Nigel Farage’s second abdication of the role following the Brexit Vote. In his resignation speech in July, Mr Farage declared his intentions to ‘support the new leader’ in the party’s next chapter and ‘to try and make sure that this country gets the best possible terms’ from the negotiation talks.
Yet Ms Jones was quick to distance herself from Mr Farage, announcing that she was ‘not a Nigel-lite‘. While she expressed her hopes to replicate Mr Farage’s political success, she said she would try to do so in a more level-headed manner:
I believe in UKIP’s values of liberty, common sense, democracy and pragmatic approaches to the challenges this country faces.
Despite asserting during her leadership campaign that no policy decisions would be made ‘on the hoof’, after her victory today she warned Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May to ‘get on’ with invoking Article 50 to kickstart the process of Britain’s official exit from the European Union.
While UKIP secured the third highest number of votes behind the Conservative and Labour Parties in the 2015 UK General Election, the party currently only possesses a single representative in the House of Commons. The Brexit Vote has served to emphasize this disporportionate representation in Parliament, and with Labour suffering from ongoing intra-party division, UKIP look set for a profound increase in status, influence and popularity in the upcoming months and years.