Next leader of UKIP
Next Permanent UKIP Leader After Gerard Batten
Next Permanent UKIP Leader after Gerard Batten
A new leadership election will be held by UKIP later this year, at which Gerard Batten is likely to face a challenge from senior members unhappy at party’s far-right stance and his close links to Tommy Robinson (the anti-Islam activist).
A meeting of the UKIP’s national executive agreed that Batten, who took over last April (with an initial one-year brief to stabilize UKIP), will stay on in the post until after May’s local elections, after which a new leadership election will be held.
Confirming the plan, a party spokesman said it was not yet known whether Batten would stand again. During his tenure a string of senior party members, including Nigel Farage, have quit in protest at his anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric.
It is understood, Batten has agreed to formally resign as leader then remain in interim capacity until after the local elections on 2 May.
The subsequent leadership election, in which UKIP will select its fifth permanent leader since Farage (who quit the post back in 2016), is likely to be closely fought between candidates with very different visions for the future of the party (particularly if Batten stands again).
Batten (an UKIP and MEP veteran), has sought to move the party to the far right. He has called Islam a “death cult” and suggested that Muslims in the UK should be asked to sign a declaration renouncing elements of the Qur’an.
In November, disquiet among more moderate members of the party peaked, when Batten appointed Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), as an adviser on grooming gangs and prisons. The founder of the English Defense League, Robinson is not allowed to join UKIP under party rules designed to exclude the far right.
Farage quit UKIP after 25 years in December, saying the party he led to its greatest successes was unrecognizable because of Batten’s “fixation” with anti-Muslim policies.
A series of other senior members have quit, including UKIP’s leader in Scotland, David Coburn, former leader Paul Nuttall, and a number of other MEPs, and Peter Whittle (UKIP’s 2016 candidate for London mayor).
One UKIP member insider said the coming leadership polls would be a pivotal moment for the party: “Whether or not Gerard stands, it is fair to say this will be a battle for the soul and heart of the party.”
In 2014, UKIP topped the polls in European elections under Farage, and in 2015, won the third largest number of votes in the general election. Since then, UKIP has slumped amid the chaos of repeated leadership changes.
When Batten was appointed the leader of the party without a contest, he was charged with stabilizing it after Henry Bolton’s disastrous tenure, and restoring its moribund finances. He has done that, and membership has increased. However, it is polling at only about 4% or 5%.