General Election 2015: Ukip claim to have another leader waiting in the wings

Diane James dismissed suggestions that the party would be fatally damaged if Mr Farage stood down as leader

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Indy Politics

Ukip has other potential leaders waiting in the wings if Nigel Farage fails to became an MP next month, one of the party’s best-known activists has claimed.

Diane James, who rose to prominence two years ago when she came second in the Eastleigh by-election, dismissed suggestions that the party would be fatally damaged if Mr Farage stood down as leader – which he has said he will do if he fails to win the Thanet South seat he is contesting.

A ComRes poll commissioned by a Ukip donor showed at the weekend that Mr Farage was a point behind the Conservative candidate and a point ahead of Labour, suggesting that the seat, won by the Tories in 2010, is now a three-way marginal – with Labour, and to a lesser extent the Conservatives, gaining support at Ukip’s expense.

The poll has been dismissed by Ukip, which pointed out that the headline figures included people not likely to vote. It said Mr Farage still led the field among those certain to vote.

Mr Farage has an advantage over other candidates in South Thanet in that he is better known, but suffers the disadvantage that as a party leader he has to campaign around the country rather than focusing on the seat he hopes to win. His schedule for the coming week includes campaigning in the West Midlands.

Mr Farage has said he could not continue to lead Ukip from outside the Commons, when it is expected that the party will take a handful of seats, including Clacton, where Douglas Carswell is the incumbent.

Ms James, a Ukip MEP for South-east England, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: “Nigel stated categorically a few weeks ago that if he were not elected to the House of Commons, he would stand down. That’s a fact.

“We have a very high calibre of individuals within Ukip. They are frequently on the BBC and other media outlets: Suzanne Evans, Patrick O’Flynn, Paul Nuttall. There are people there waiting. When the leadership race is announced, I’m sure individuals will put their hats into the ring.”

During Thursday night’s leaders debate, Mr Farage’s strategy appeared to be to appeal to the party’s core, particularly when he claimed that out of 7,000 people a year diagnosed with HIV in Britain, 60 per cent were foreign nationals. Yesterday, he defended that comment by telling Sky News: “It is a sensible Christian thing to look after your family and your own community first.”

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