Latest new leader of Britain’s Ukip anointed, plans to quit

Batten, a member of the European Parliament since 2004, had been Ukip’s interim leader since February

LONDON: Ukip anointed Gerard Batten as its new leader on Saturday, after the fourth leadership contest in 19 months with the party in disarray since achieving its founding mission of Brexit.

But Batten immediately announced his intention to resign in 12 months’ time because he was elected unopposed, after no other candidates stepped forward by Saturday’s deadline.

Nigel Farage led the United Kingdom Independence Party to its zenith and was a driving force in bringing about its founding aim of getting Britain out of the European Union.

But since the June 2016 referendum on EU membership, Ukip has seen its support tumble and the party descend into chaos as it struggles to find a new role.

It has also been dogged by financial problems.

“I intend to resign on April 13, 2019 so that a full leadership contest may take place. By then I will have decided if I wish to contest that election or not,” Batten said.

“For the next 12 months, I will concentrate on doing all I can to restore the party’s fortunes.”

Batten, 64, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 2004, had been Ukip’s interim leader since February.

He said he had ensured the party’s “immediate survival” by putting it on a firm footing financially and organisationally.

“As leader, I will do all I can to work for the progress of the party. Ukip is the only real opposition to our political establishment, and we are needed now as much as ever.”

Ukip has witnessed six changes of leadership since the referendum.

Farage stepped down after Britain voted for Brexit, his political mission complete.

Diane James took over then quit again within a month, with Farage returning as acting leader.

Paul Nuttall won the next leadership contest but Ukip flopped at the 2017 general election.

He quit and Steve Crowther took acting charge. Henry Bolton won the next leadership contest in September, but was ousted in February following a scandal over his private life.

Farage, who became friends with US President Donald Trump, remains an MEP but now hosts a national radio talk show five times a week.

The next test for the anti-EU, anti-mass immigration party is the English local elections on May 3, being contested largely in the metropolitan areas.


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