Diane James has been elected the new leader of the UK Independence Party with nearly half of the vote.
James was announced as the anti-EU party’s new leader at a national conference in Bournemouth on Friday which Business Insider attended. She succeeds Nigel Farage, who delivered his final speech as leader earlier in the day.
James, a Member of European Parliament and UKIP deputy chairman, was widely expected to win the contest prior to the announcement. Bookmakers were offering odds of up to 90% for the Bedford-born candidate, who had been endorsed by party donor and prominent Brexit campaigner Arron Banks.
Speaking at the Bournemouth International Centre, James said: “I am so pleased. It’s gonna take me while to get back down to Earth. Thank you to everyone who voted. My goodness, you’ve handed over a mantle. I am deeply honoured to take over from Nigel.
“Just remember where we are and what you’ve asked me to take on… we were the third political force in that general election. We moved mountains in that landscape. We may have been flawed by a morally bankrupt FPTP system but absolutely nobody can take away from UKIP the disruption we’ve caused.
“Can I just mark one sentence: The days of project fear’s tactics have had their day. We’ve proved they have had their day and we’ll make sure they never rise from the political ashes ever again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s also thank the media for being here. Why are they here? We are the political change movement in the United Kingdom.”
These are the final results of the UKIP leadership contest:
- DIANE JAMES — 47.4%
- LISA DUFFY — 25.7%
- BILL ETHERIDGE — 11.5%
- PHILIP BROUGHTON — 8.6%
- ELIZABETH JONES — 6.7%
Steven Woolfe Woolfe MP was the initial favourite to become the party’s next leader before campaigning got underway. However, the party’s NEC ruled that his failure to apply on time meant he could not stand as a candidate.
The decision, which was branded “insane” by Banks, upset Woolfe’s supporters and triggered a period of bitter in-fighting. Farage told Business Insider that it would be “difficult” for the wounds to be healed but said he was “confident they [the party] would get on with it”.
James, who was the most widely-known of the candidates, adopted the unusual approach of refusing to take part in hustings in the run-up to the contest. A senior source close to her team told Business Insider she preferred to do solo events as it allowed to get “closer” to party members.
One of James’ first challenges will be trying to stop more members defecting to the Conservatives, following news that senior members Steve Stanbury and Alex Phillips had switched to the Tories. Theresa May’s plans to reintroduce grammar schools, a policy that was part of UKIP’s manifesto, looks to be making the Conservatives a more desirable home for UKIP members.
Speaking before the announcement, James took a swipe at May for “stealing” UKIP policies, in reference to the prime minister’s plans to lift the ban on grammars.
Now attention turns to the new leader. Here’s favourite Diane James accusing Theresa May of “stealing” UKIP policy pic.twitter.com/IHaBOsqIDj
— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) September 16, 2016
Te turnout for the election was just over 17,000 — approximately 50% of the party membership. James told us she was “hoping” for a turnout closer to 25,000.
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