Paul Nuttall, the UK Independence Party’s Liverpool-born MEP, has emerged as the new front-runner to take over as the leader of the troubled anti-EU party.
Nuttall, who announced his candidacy on the BBC’s Sunday Politics over the weekend, has long been seen as a potential successor to his friend Nigel Farage.
He is hugely popular with party members and has strong grassroots support in the north of England — a region where the party is deprived of resources and popular support.
Sources close to UKIP told Business Insider that he Nuttall is seen as someone who could “save” the party, while Jonathan Arnott, a fellow UKIP MEP, told the Guardian that Nuttall is “uber-qualified” for the role.
The party’s former deputy leader said he is the person to reunite the party after months of internal conflict, which culminated in former migration spokesperson being hospitalised after a fight with a colleague.
“UKIP at the moment is looking over the edge of a political cliff,” Nuttall told BBC. “It will either step off or it will step back. And I want to be the candidate that will tell us to come backwards.”
His main rival is likely to be former Tory councillor, Suzanne Evans, who also used a weekend appearance on the BBC to officially announce her candidacy.
Evans, who helped put together the party’s 2015 election manifesto, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that she was the “right person” to lead the party and said she could “reach out to voters on both the left and the right” of UK politics.
Unlike Nuttall, though, Evans could have a tough time persuading UKIP members that she represents a break from the in-fighting which has damaged the party’s reputation in recent months.
Farage, who appeared on the Andrew Marr Show immediately after Evans, suggested she was a hypocrite for branding fellow candidate Raheem Kassam as “toxic” and said he wouldn’t be voting for her in the contest. Farage is regarded as a hero among UKIP members and his opinion carries a lot of weight among voters.
At 7/1, Kassam is the wildcard candidate. The former aide to Farage and current UK editor of right-wing news site Breitbart is hugely outspoken, even by the pro-Brexit party’s standards. He received a massive boost over the weekend when Arron Banks, the party’s millionaire donor, officially endorsed his candidacy.
The other candidates are London Assembly members Peter Whittle and David Kurten, MEP Bill Etheridge, and former Tory councillor Andrew Beadle. Interestingly, Farage is the joint-fourth favourite to be next leader, despite not being an actual candidate.
Here are the latest UKIP leadership odds (Ladbrokes):
Paul Nuttall — 1/3 (75% probability)
Suzanne Evans — 4/1 (20% probability)
Raheem Kassam — 7/1 (12.5% probability)
Peter Whittle — 20/1 (4.8% probability)
Nigel Farage — 20/1 (4.8% probability)
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