Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Nigel Farage today revealed he is “probably” still the leader of Ukip following Diane James’s resignation after just 18 days.
The Ukip MEP told HuffPost UK he was looking for confirmation from the Electoral Commission as to whether he was legally still in charge of his party.
The admission came after it was revealed by party sources that James did not submit the relevant forms to the Commission to officially become party leader.
It is believed she wrote the words “under duress” in Latin underneath her signature, rendering the forms void.
Speaking to the HuffPost UK this morning, Farage said: “I don’t want to be leader, but I think legally I probably still am.
“We’re just waiting to speak to the Electoral Commission, but they’re not open yet as they’re lazy civil servants.”
Farage confirmed there would be a leadership contest in due course, but he would not be putting his name forward.
“Not a chance. Absolutely not,” he said.
When asked if he was shocked by James’s decision to quit just 18 days after being elected to replace him, Farage said: “We’re all a bit surprised, but look, it’s a rotten job.
“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
Ukip chairman Paul Oakden said an “emergency meeting” of the party’s ruling NEC would now be held to discuss electing a replacement leader.
He said: “Whilst the decision is unfortunate, it is one that Diane is entitled to make. We thank her for all her work as leader, and as a hard working MEP, a role she will continue with her customary vigour”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Oakden denied his party had become a joke.
“I wouldn’t call it a farce,” he said, “it’s an unfortunate situation but it’s one that our party are more than capable of dealing with.”
James announced she was quitting late last night, and in a statement said: “It has become clear that I do not have sufficient authority, nor the full support of all my MEP colleagues and party officers to implement changes I believe necessary and upon which I based my campaign.
“For personal and professional reasons therefore, I will not take the election process further.”
She added: “I will continue to concentrate fully on my activities and responsibilities as an elected Ukip Member of the European Parliament for the South East region.”