UKIP rule change excludes most of party’s key figures from leadership election

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The UK Independence Party has changed the rules for its leadership election at the eleventh hour – to exclude many of the party’s key figures.

Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader for a third time last week in the wake of the EU referendum, promising to walk away from the role.

However, the planned leadership contest has already been thrown into dissaray, after a last-minute rule change by the executive that requires all leadership candidates to have been a UKIP member for at least five years.

As the party only rose from obscurity in the past few years, the rule means that nearly all of the senior UKIP figures mooted for the position until now are unable to run for leader.

These include the sole UKIP Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell, Welsh Assembly Member Mark Reckless, top donor Arron Banks, London Assembly Member Peter Whittle and David Kurten, and former interim leader Suzanne Evans.

As early frontrunner Paul Nuttall has now also ruled out a bid, there is now a serious question about how many candidates could be eligible run.

North Eastern MEP Jonathan Arnott is so far the only candidate to have declared he is running.

Fellow MEPs Diane James and Steven Woolfe are thought to also be mulling bids – while AM Neil Hamilton is eligible to run despite having ruled out a bid.

The party’s former interim leader Suzanne Evans was already blocked from the party – as she was suspended earlier this year after calling for the deselection of a homophobic candidate.

She said: “I cannot imagine a decision more ridiculous and more likely to bring UKIP into disrepute.

“It means people such as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless cannot stand, despite the huge dedication they have shown to the party and their current elected positions.

“I hope the new leader will allow members to attend NEC meetings unless confidential information is being discussed, publish the minutes, and set up a ‘right of recall’ so NEC members are accountable to members.

“At the moment, frankly, by operating in secret, changing the rules as it goes along, and being totally unaccountable, it is behaving like the EU.”