Britain’s anti-European Union UK Independence Party elected deputy chairwoman Diane James its new leader on Friday to replace Brexit talisman Nigel Farage who stepped down after helping to win the referendum on EU membership in June. James, currently a member of the European parliament, was announced as the party’s new head at its annual conference in the southern English coastal town of Bournemouth after a ballot of UKIP’s 40,000 members.
“We are the political change movement of the United Kingdom,” James said, pledging to makes sure Britain acted on the referendum result and left the EU. A former business analyst with a long career the healthcare sector, James has pledged to ensure the government delivers an exit from the EU that meets the demands of UKIP voters: namely tighter immigration controls and more free trade.
But, she will inherit a party riven with factional disputes and struggling to define a clear identity after achieving its number one goal of triggering Britain’s exit from the EU. A close ally of Farage defected to the ruling Conservative Party on the eve of the conference, saying that Prime Minister Theresa May had delivered on key elements of the UKIP manifesto since taking office in July, and that droves of UKIP supporters were doing the same. Nevertheless, UKIP remains a potent force in British politics.
Led by the charismatic Farage, who successfully tapped into a powerful anti-establishment mood among voters, the party won nearly 4 million votes at a general election in 2015 and played a key role in persuading Britons to vote to leave the EU.