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16 September 2016

Ukip elects Diane James as new leader: “I’m not Nigel-lite“

The former parliamentary candidate has her eye on the "Remainiacs". 

By Julia Rampen

Diane James, a Ukip MEP and a former parliamentary candidate, has been elected the new leader with 8,451 votes.

James will replace the popular outgoing leader Nigel Farage. She inherits a party divided by warring factions, including that between those who backed former frontrunner, Steven Woolfe, and a rival faction backed by Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell. 

In her winning speech, she declared: “You did it. We did it. And I have just done it.” She said: “We are the political change movement of the UK.”

But she described the EU referendum vote as only the first heat in the race to leave the union. 

Branding pro-EU voters “Remainiacs” and warning against “Brexit-lite”, she said: “Just remind them until we get a signature, until the ink is dry, we’re still in. They still tell us what to do. They still boss us about.”

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She continued: “Yes to a true, 100 per cent EU exit. Can I be any more clearer? Yes to a sovereign, independent UK. Yes to a UK free to make trade deals whenever and with whoever we want. And yes to an immigration policy that allows entry regardless of origin for those with the skills, and expertise and social values this country wants.”

Calling Ukip “the opposition party in waiting”, James urged the party to prepare for a general election, and praised the 2015 manifesto: “We’ve got to do that again.”

She branded Theresa May, the Prime Minister, “Magpie May” and accused her of stealing “the best ideas” from Ukip.

After Farage announced his resignation, Woolfe was initially tipped as the frontrunner for Ukip leadership. A mixed-race, working-class northerner, he was viewed as an asset for a party trying to grab Labour’s heartlands. But the National Executive Committee excluded him from the race after he filed his submission late. 

The decision sparked a row within Ukip, with Woolfe’s supporters calling the decision, backed by Carswell, “a coup”. 

James struck a conciliatory note, saying that it was not possible to win without the party behind her, and she needed “a winning political machine”. 

She said: “All of you, wherever you are in the UK at the moment, I ask you, support me, work with me, win with me.”