UKIP leadership juggernaut rolls into the region to show its hand

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Picture: PA/Steve Parsons

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Picture: PA/Steve Parsons - Credit: PA

UK Independence Party members have spent the summer celebrating victory in the European Union referendum campaign and mulling who will fill Nigel Farage's shoes at the top of the party. Activists from across the region gathered in Clacton this week to hear from the candidates.

The thoughts of local members seem to reflect the mood nationally with Diane James and Lisa Duffy attracting the most support, reflecting the betting markets which put the two women clearly ahead.

Former Norwich candidate Steve Emmens signed Lisa Duffy's nomination papers and is a supporter, but says he thinks Diane James – the MEP who shot to fame after giving the Liberal Democrats a close run in the Eastleigh by-election – would be victorious.

He did not it to the hustings tonight, and suggested a more central location, such as Ipswich, would have been better.

But on the future for UKIP he is optimistic, offering a warning salvo to new prime minister Theresa May, who he said should tread carefully and would have a revolt on her hands if she didn't deliver Brexit.

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He said that the party now needed to appeal to as many voters as possible, but warned against pandering to Labour voters.

The decade-long member added: 'I think the leader is very important to shape the direction the party goes in.'

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Kay Grey, leader of the UKIP group in Great Yarmouth, where the party has 12 seats on the borough council, said she would be backing Lisa Duffy because she had started out in the party's grassroots and had been very good at supporting councillors.

'I just think that she is a gutsy woman. I think she would be very good at leading. She will take people along with her.'

She said that while she was disappointed that Nigel Farage had not stayed around to lead them through Brexit, he could be replaced.

She said that local members would continue to 'plod on' doing what they did week in and week out.

For Simon Tobin, former police and crime commissioner candidate, now campaign manager for Waveney in next year's Suffolk County Council elections, the two names he says he knows are those of Diane James and Lisa Duffy, who he says are both strong candidates. Going forward he says the party needs a 'softer front'.

'By softer I don't mean weak. I mean something with more of a comfortable feel for people to join. It is in superb shape, we have some great people and a vast range of policies.

'We feel the Conservatives really are still disengaged with the man and woman on the street and with the current disengagement of the Labour Party. UKIP is a very, very viable place for people to go to now.'

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