UKIP executive decides not to block EDL-linked candidate

Peter Whittle (left), bookies’ favourite to win the UKIP leadership, with former leader Nigel Farage

UKIP’s latest leadership election will have eleven candidates after the party’s national executive announced yesterday that they had decided not to block an EDL-linked candidate from standing.

‘Moderates’ on the executive tried to block the leadership campaign of Anne Marie Waters, a former Labour Party member whose campaign team includes ex-BNP member Jack Buckby. Ms Waters is a longstanding ally of Paul Weston (head of Liberty GB) and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, alias ‘Tommy Robinson’ (founder of the English Defence League, EDL).

Liberal media outrage against Ms Waters (typified by a Nick Cohen column in The Observer) is matched by opposition to her candidature within UKIP, almost all of whose MEPs would quit if she became leader or deputy leader. Mike Hookem, UKIP’s deputy chief whip in the European Parliament whose immediate superior – chief whip Stuart Agnew – is Ms Waters only senior supporter, quit in protest yesterday saying that “turning a blind eye to extremist views” was “not something I am prepared to do”.

H&D readers will remember last year’s fracas involving former leadership favourite Steven Woolfe, which seemed to show that Mr Hookem was more likely to inflict a black eye (if provoked) than turn a blind eye.

Among those condemning Ms Waters is rival leadership candidate Jane Collins, an MEP for Yorkshire & Humber who fought two high-profile parliamentary by-elections for UKIP: Barnsley Central in 2011 and Rotherham in 2012, but Ms Collins is a fringe candidate in a contest that (if you believe the bookies) is now realistically a five-horse race.

David Kurten (left) with leadership rival David Coburn MEP

A UKIP establishment bandwagon was growing behind David Kurten, a mixed-race UKIP member of the London Assembly, who now has the backing of the Farage-Banks lobby group Leave.EU.  Leave.EU’s backing for Kurten was a blow to Welsh businessman John Rees-Evans, who has organised a nationwide tour to promote his campaign for ‘direct democracy’ to revive UKIP, but apparent ‘homophobic’ comments by Kurten have revived Rees-Evans’s chances.

The field of ‘moderate’ candidates has been further confused by the late entry into the race of Henry Bolton, a military intelligence veteran who stood for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner last year. Bolton is the dark horse in the race, and seems to be picking up support from ‘moderates’ who think that neither Kurten nor Rees-Evans are serious leadership material.

Libertarians disturbed by the anti-Islamist obsessions of Waters and Peter Whittle (described by the Jewish Chronicle as “the Israel-loving friendly face of UKIP” and current favourite to win, after promising to appoint Waters his deputy) are tending to back David Coburn (UKIP’s only Scottish MEP) or Ben Walker (an ex-Tory and councillor for a Bristol suburb), but some will try to pick a ‘non-Islamophobic’ winner from among Kurten, Rees-Evans and Bolton, so as to block the ‘extremists’ Whittle and Waters.

Coburn and Whittle are gay, while Waters is a lesbian. Former leadership candidate Suzanne Evans was thus able to post on Twitter celebrating the fact that “33% of UKIP’s leadership candidates are gay. What other party has ever been able to say that?”

Surprise candidates joining the race but likely to finish as also-rans include Aidan Powlesland, parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk earlier this year, who is an enthusiast for space exploration; David Allen, 2017 parliamentary candidate for Rochester & Strood; and Marion Mason, a former Tory councillor who was UKIP candidate for Hertfordshire Police & Crime Commissioner.

The result of the leadership election will be announced at UKIP’s conference on September 29th in Torquay, after which senior figures such as Nigel Farage and Arron Banks will get on with the serious business of organising a split.

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