Let me start by saying that I admire anyone who takes the decision to stand for leader of UKIP.
As Nigel knows and Diane discovered, this is not an easy job, and the fact that none of the previous candidates are standing again says that it’s a tough selection process too.
That said, we have 4 people who have put their names forward and I will be voting for Peter Whittle, here’s why;
Firstly, I am a big fan of Paul Nuttall. He has been, and will continue to be, a great asset to the Party. He is a great speaker and is passionate about the UKIP cause and is probably (outside of London) the best known of the four candidates. I’m sure he would be a good leader and a safe pair of hands.
Then there is Suzanne Evans. She’s had a bit of an up-and-down career within UKIP so far but I’m not going to speculate on this as I (like most people) do not know the facts and so cannot and (unlike a lot of people) will not comment. What I will say is that she is a consummate professional, media savvy and always responds to questions with a smiling positive attitude which I think is important. Again, I am sure she would lead the Party well.
Thirdly, we have John Rees-Evans who I must admit is not known to me at all but I wish him luck and, as I said at the start, have huge admiration for anyone who chooses to put themselves through this process.
So this brings me to Peter Whittle. For those that don’t know him, he was our candidate for Mayor of London back in the spring and (along with David Kurten) make up our representation on the London Assembly.
Having faced-off in several London Mayoral events against Sadiq Khan, Zac Goldsmith and others, Peter is a proven debater. If you’ve not heard him speak before, here are a couple of links;
On BBC Daily Politics this week.
UKIP Spring Conference Llandudno
London Mayor Candidate Interview
As you will have heard he is eloquent, intelligent, calm and considered – all good qualities for a leader. He is also a seasoned campaigner in a tough (for UKIP) part of the country so he has recent first-hand experience of what it is like to be a Party activist and the sort of issues we face on the street.
In recent weeks there have clearly been tensions between our MEPs. Peter, being outside of that group of individuals, will be better placed to smooth over those differences.
Another important point for me is the need to blow some fresh air through the Party – and while other candidates have, in the past, been unofficially anointed as Nigel’s successor, Peter does not come with that tag and is much more his own person.
In the interest of balance I would like to note my only slight concern, which is having another leader from the South East when arguably our biggest opportunities for growing members are further North. This is not an insurmountable problem and, given that the business of politics in Britain is probably 90% conducted in London, perhaps not so serious.
In conclusion I’m sure any of the three front-runners will do a fine job in leading UKIP as we continue our fight to ensure Brexit happens and look to position ourselves as a serious and genuine contender for the main opposition in British politics.
But my vote will be going to Peter.