Hartlepool politician Jonathan Arnott has been backed to become the new leader of UKIP – by the party’s president.
Jeremy Titford has praised North East MEP Mr Arnott’s “dedication” and “ability to succeed”.
Mr Arnott, 35, announced his intention to run for party leader earlier this month after the resignation of Nigel Farage.
Mr Farage played a prominent role in the successful “out” campaign to get Britain to vote to leave the European Union last month.
Former maths teacher Mr Arnott has previously said he aims to develop a more unified party with a wider appeal to all British citizens should he become leader.
UKIP party president Mr Titford said: “When I look for leadership by example, dedication to the job, ability to succeed and inspiration for the future, I look to Jonathan Arnott.”
Mr Arnott’s campaign endorsees now include MEPs, the leaders of UKIP council groups in Hartlepool and Bolton, in Lancashire, a former party leader, former party chairman John Whittaker and the regional chairmen in the North East and North West.
Speaking about support for his bid, he said: “Whilst other candidates have simply sought the headlines, behind the scenes large chunks of the party are quietly uniting behind my campaign.
“What we’re seeing is that the party’s traditional grandees, the stalwarts who know this party inside and out, are backing my campaign.
“They know I am genuinely committed to UKIP and its members.
“They know I would never sell the party to an individual donor just to secure their backing for my leadership campaign, however much money they have in the bank.”
Mr Arnott enrolled at the University of Sheffield at the age of 15 after gaining his A-levels three years early.
He left having attained a masters in mathematics.
He went on to become head of mathematics at a school in Sheffield before entering politics.
A skilful chess player, and former Yorkshire chess captain, Jonathan has also played for Britain at the board game Stratego.
He is married and lives near Middlesbrough.
Mr Arnott has written a book about chess and more recently authored The Blueprint: Our Future After Brexit.
On announcing he was to stand for the party leadership, he said: “Standing for leader has not been an easy decision for me to make, as I know the level of hard work and commitment that will be required. I have nothing but praise for the way that Nigel Farage, the greatest orator in modern politics, was able to devote so much time and energy to UKIP.”