UKIP will unveil its new leader on Friday at its party conference in Torquay, after a contest that has turned into a battle for the soul of the party.
“It’s more intense, vicious and dirtier than it’s ever been,” says one UKIP MEP of the infighting gripping the party.
The top job has already been held by two different leaders in the year since Nigel Farage resigned. One of them, Diane James, lasted just 18 days in the job, saying she could not “continue to bang [her] head against a brick wall”.
Her successor, Paul Nuttall, stood down after the general election, in which the party struggled to convince voters it still had a purpose after achieving the thing it was set up to do – Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Ukip’s new leader could be anti-Islam activist with links to far right
Insiders say Anne Marie Waters’ extreme views could split party if she wins close-run leadership contest
British politics could make a notable shift towards extremist nationalism when Ukip announces its new leader at its annual conference in Torquay on Friday, amid speculation the winner could be an anti-Islam activist with close links to the far right.
Insiders say the party faces splits or even disintegration if this happens, two and a half years after it was the UK’s third-biggest party by vote share at the 2015 general election.
The race is extremely close, with senior figures saying six of the seven candidates could feasibly succeed Paul Nuttall, whose disastrous six-month stint ended after Ukip plummeted from almost 4m votes to fewer than 600,000 in June’s election.