Although the leader controversy in Labour gets most of the attention, the UK Independence Party UKIP is also about to select a new leader. On Friday the party will decide who is to succeed colorful Nigel Farage.
Five politicians, all of them unfamiliar to most Norwegians, are vying for the position as leader.
– There is no clear favorite, and already now people are speculating that Farage will return to his former position fairly quickly, Associate Professor at the University of Agder, Jan-Erik Mustad, says.
Farage has changed his mind before. When he did not get a seat in the Parliament after th elections in May 2015, he resigned. But then he changed his mind three days later. This time he resigned a scant two weeks after brexit referendum June 23:
– My goal has been to get Britain out of the EU. That was what we voted for in the referendum, and now I feel like I’ve done my part. It is right to step aside, said Farage.
There was no obvious successor not ready to take over the position as leader, but many pointed to Steven Woolf, a lawyer and member of the European Parliament. But the 48-year-old made a commonplace mistake – he registered as candidate 17 minutes after the deadline and were thus disqualified.
There are now five candidates for the position: Lisa Duffy, Phillip Broughton, Bill Etheridge, Diane James and Elizabeth Jones.
– Diane James is slightly ahead of the others in the polls, but it is still very close, Mustad says.
56 years old James is a member of the European Parliament and is the party’s home affairs spokesperson.
The big question now is what will happens to the party, which has achieved its major goal, to get Britain to leave the EU.
– Now they must consolidate the party as an ordinary party. The question is whether they have the power to do so and what will happens to their support in the times ahead. But immigration will probably still be an important issue for the party, says Mustad.
UKIP is for many synonymous with Nigel Farage. The loudmouthed and colorful politician has played a major part in making the immigration- and EU-critical party into what it is today, including its position as Britain’s third largest party.
The party received over three million votes in the parliamentary elections last year. But because of the British electoral system with single-member electoraates, where only the candidate with the most votes in a constituency get into the House of Commons, UKIP ended with up only one MP .
– Farage has been a star on the right-wing populist “firmament”. It will be interesting to see how others in UKIP will promote themselves after his departure. It could be that someone else will step forward, Mustad says.
If this does not happen and UKIP plunge in the polls, all could be set for a comeback for Farage. But if that turns out to be the case, it will probably not occur until at the party’s national convention in one year at the earliest, the UK expert says.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today