Who is mad enough to lead Ukip?

The party of 'fruitcakes' is in need of direction. Andrew Johnson and Matt Chorley assess who is one slice short of a serious leadership bid

He could be the prize fighter the ailing political party needs. The boxing promoter Frank Maloney – best known for managing British ex-world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis – is preparing to enter the ring in the battle to lead the UK Independence Party.

It would be another surprise twist in the history of the arch-Eurosceptic party, which has seen one of its MEPs jailed and its most successful leader narrowly escape death in an air crash.

The most recent leader, Lord Pearson, quit this month after less than a year at the helm, saying he was "not much good at party politics". During the general election campaign he admitted he did not know his own manifesto, yet the party still won almost one million votes. Last year during European Parliament elections, one in six voters backed Ukip, securing 13 MEPs, second only to the Tories.

As the party prepares for its annual conference in Torquay, one insider said the gathering was likely to turn into a "beauty pageant", with at least seven potential leadership contenders.

Mr Maloney, 56, a street-smart south Londoner, will possibly be taking on Barbara Cartland's grandson, a professor of economics and the inventor of a million-pound puzzle contest. Nigel Farage, the former leader who resigned last year to run against the Speaker, John Bercow, has yet to decide if he will stand again. He is still recovering from serious back injuries he got in a plane crash on polling day.

Mr Maloney also said he was in the process of deciding whether to run. "I'm thinking about it," he said yesterday. "Ukip needs to modernise and it needs the leadership to bring it into the modern world and to modernise its image.

"The majority of people see us as cast-away Tories or old English. I don't think that's the case. I'm not an ex-Tory and I'm not old English, but I am patriotic. If Ukip makes the wrong decision now, it will stagnate and simply become a party of protest."

In 2006, David Cameron branded Ukip members "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly". At the time Mr Farage said: "I don't mind him calling us loonies. I don't mind him calling us fruitcakes. But what you cannot do in the 21st century is to lob about accusations of racism."

David Campbell Bannerman

The former Tory is a descendant of the Liberal prime minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. He is the deputy leader of Ukip and intends to stand for the leadership. "It's overwhelmingly clear now that trusting Cameron with Europe will be as misguided as trusting Blair on Iraq."

Fruit cake factor out of five: 1 stars

Christopher Monckton

Described by his own party as "mad, bad and dangerous, our own Lord Byron", he is a viscount, a former journalist, Dominic Lawson’s brother-in-law and inventor of the Eternity puzzle. "This might be talking heresy, but I consider myself a happy European."

Fruit cake factor: 5 stars

Gerard Batten

Ukip's London MEP helped to found the party in 1993 and came second in the 2009 leadership contest. He intends to stand again this year. "I'm an unconditional withdrawalist. That's what the members want to hear. Why should we put up with a government voted for by Latvians?"

Fruit cake factor: 3 stars

William, Earl of Dartmouth

Barbara Cartland was his granny and Princess Diana his stepsister. "When people ask will Britain leave the European Union, I respond with just three words. Yes, we will."

Fruit cake factor: 3 stars

Nigel Farage

The former leader is the bookies' favourite. He believes the party should fight on a wider platform than just Europe, pointing to a "massive vacuum in British politics".

Fruit cake factor: 1 stars

Frank Maloney

The boxing promoter ran in the 2004 London mayoral elections. He is said to have refused to campaign in Camden because it contained too many gays. "I don't want to campaign around gays. I don't think they do a lot for society. What I have a problem with is them openly flaunting their sexuality."

Fruit cake factor: 4 stars

Professor Tim Congdon CBE

The Oxford-educated economist advised the Tories on economic policy during much of John Major’s rule. "Like the Soviet Union before it, the European Union is undemocratic, and in time it too will collapse."

Fruit cake factor: 3 stars

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