Ukip leader Richard Braine resigns ahead of general election

30 October 2019, 15:21

UKIP loses eighth leader since the Brexit referendum
UKIP loses eighth leader since the Brexit referendum. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK Independence Party has lost its eighth leader since the 2016 Brexit referendum after less than three months in charge.

Ukip leader Richard Braine has resigned from the party just weeks ahead of the forthcoming general election amid clashes with the group's national executive.

The move means the party are now seeking their ninth leader in just three years, following a six-year period of stability under former head of the party Nigel Farage.

Mr Braine claimed just over a week ago that the national executive had tried to suspend him following a struggle for control over the party, with a spokesperson confirming his departure.

In his resignation letter he cited "internal conflict" and said he found himself "powerless to prevent a purge of good members from the party."

"I did not join Ukip in order to waste time on internal conflict, but I have found myself powerless to prevent a purge of good members from the party,” he wrote.

"I had believed that Ukip was a highly democratic party, but I have not been able to stop political interference in Ukip ballots. I cannot therefore stand publicly for Ukip with a clear conscience."

Mr Braine resigned following clashes with the NEC
Mr Braine resigned following clashes with the NEC. Picture: PA

It raises questions over Ukip's ability to compete in the upcoming December election, with one source saying the party appeared to be on its last legs and might not field any candidates in the vote.

Mr Braine's short stint as leader included an almost immediate public row with the National Executive Committee. After low ticket sales at their party conference, he called for the group to be disbanded.

Party Chair Kirstan Herriot hoped Mr Braine's appointment would put an end to anti-Islamic policies adopted by his predecessor Gerard Batten. However, he used his first press conference to reiterate his views that Islam has a violent and expansionist culture.

Mr Batten said Mr Braine resigned because the party’s chairman and its NEC "made it impossible for him to do his job."

He tweeted: "Richard Braine has just announced his resignation as UKIP Leader. The Chairman & NEC made it impossible for him to do his job.

"The NEC are an absolute disgrace & have to go. Branches are organising an EGM to remove them. Thanks to Richard for trying in the face of sabotage."

Ukip lost all of its MEPs in May's European elections and saw its vote share tumble from 12.6 per cent in 2015 to just 1.8 per cent in 2017's snap election. They are currently polling at around one per cent.