UKIP names new leader to re­place Trump ally Farage

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Bri­tain’s anti-UE party UKIP elected for­mer his­tory lec­turer Paul Nut­tall as its new leader yes­ter­day to take over from Brexit fire­brand Nigel Farage, a po­lit­i­cal ally of US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. Nut­tall promised to unite the party-a driv­ing force be­hind Bri­tain’s vote to leave the EU-which has been un­der threat from bit­ter in­fight­ing and a plunge in fund­ing fol­low­ing Farage’s de­par­ture an­nounce­ment.

In his farewell speech, Farage promised he would not be a “back­seat driver” in the party but would see out his term as Euro­pean Par­lia­ment law­maker un­til 2020 and con­tinue with his Brexit cam­paign­ing. Farage said the Euro­pean pro­ject was now “fa­tally weak­ened”, pre­dict­ing set­backs in Aus­tria, France, Italy and the Nether­lands in the com­ing months. “Be in no doubt that it is UKIP that is seen as the lead­ing eu­roscep­tic group across the en­tire con­ti­nent,” Farage said at a con­fer­ence in Lon­don where the re­sult of the lead­er­ship bal­lot of party mem­bers was an­nounced.

Ten­sions within UKIP burst into the open when newly-elected party leader Diane James stepped down in Oc­to­ber just 18 days af­ter win­ning a pre­vi­ous lead­er­ship bal­lot. A fight then broke out be­tween UKIP MEPs in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Stras­bourg that put then lead­er­ship fa­vorite Steven Woolfe in hospi­tal. Nut­tall, 39, stressed the need for unity in the party and said his role would be to en­sure that there will be no back­slid­ing on Brexit by the govern­ment.

2016 a ‘great his­toric year’

Since an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion fol­low­ing the EU ref­er­en­dum in June, Farage has rid­den the wave of his cam­paign’s suc­cess to the United States where he ap­peared at a Trump rally in Mis­sis­sippi. De­spite hold­ing no pub­lic of­fice, the beer-drink­ing “man of the peo­ple”-as he is of­ten de­scribed-be­came the first Bri­tish politi­cian to meet Trump fol­low­ing the Repub­li­can’s shock elec­tion win. Trump even rec­om­mended his anti-es­tab­lish­ment ally as US am­bas­sador, in a tweet that ruf­fled feath­ers in Down­ing Street, with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa re­tort­ing that there was “no va­cancy”.

Swap­ping his usual pint of ale for cham­pagne at a party at Lon­don’s plush Ritz ho­tel this week, Farage rev­eled in the sug­ges­tion, hold­ing up a tray of Fer­rero Rocher choco­lates in ref­er­ence to the am­bas­sador’s re­cep­tion in an of­ten par­o­died tele­vi­sion ad­vert. In a speech to guests posted on YouTube he said 2016 had been “the year of the big po­lit­i­cal revo­lu­tion”. “When peo­ple look back in 100 years, 200 years, 2016 will stand out as one of those great his­toric years,” he added.

Farage’s ex­u­ber­ance can­not mask the tur­moil en­gulf­ing his party, how­ever. Adding to the lead­er­ship fi­asco, UKIP was ac­cused this month of us­ing EU funds to fi­nance its Brexit cam­paign, in breach of party fund­ing rules. Bri­tain’s Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has also said it will in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble breaches of UK elec­tion law. The right-wing party has failed to cap­i­tal­ize on the suc­cess of the Brexit cam­paign, suf­fer­ing a huge loss in fi­nan­cial sup­port since the ref­er­en­dum, with chief donor Ar­ron Banks voic­ing doubts about its fu­ture.

Do­na­tions to­taled £42,943 ($53,432, 50,446 eu­ros) be­tween July 1 and Septem­ber 30, a fall of 97 per­cent from £1,252,891 in the pre­vi­ous three months, quar­terly Elec­toral Com­mis­sion fig­ures show. UKIP emerged from the fringes of Bri­tish pol­i­tics af­ter play­ing a key role in the push for a ref­er­en­dum on EU mem­ber­ship. Ad­vo­cat­ing an anti-im­mi­gra­tion agenda, the party scored the third-high­est num­ber of votes in the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion, tak­ing 12.7 per­cent of the vote. How­ever, the party won only one con­stituency, mak­ing Dou­glas Car­swell UKIP’s only MP. —AFP

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