UKIP leadership nominations close with North East MEP among those vying to succeed Nigel Farage

Jonathan Arnott MEP
Jonathan Arnott MEP

The battle to succeed Nigel Farage as UKIP leader is officially under way after nominations for the post closed.

The party's immigration policy chief Steven Woolfe is front-runner to take over, but councillor Lisa Duffy and MEPs Bill Etheridge and Jonathan Arnott have also been pushing for the crown.

Mr Arnott is an MEP for the North East and lives near Middlesbrough.

Nominations closed at noon on Sunday and the candidate list will be announced on Tuesday after a vetting procedure is carried out by UKIP top brass.

When announcing his leadership bid earlier this month, Mr Arnott said: “I do not fear taking on the rudderless Labour Party in its heartlands. In my region, the North East of England, I led the UKIP fight at the 2015 general election.

“We went from having below-average UKIP results in 2010 to gaining the highest UKIP share of the vote of any region in the country and we stand poised to gain Westminster seats.

“My two years as local elections co-ordinator, and six as the party’s general secretary, have given me an intimate understanding of the internal workings of UKIP and I propose constitutional reform that will achieve a dynamic, democratic party where the views of grassroots members and branches have greater input.

“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.”

Huntingdonshire councillor Ms Duffy has pledged to heal factional fighting in the party.

She is backed by former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans, who was suspended from the party earlier this year after repeated clashes with Mr Farage.

Mr Woolfe is the most high-profile contender after controversial rule changes limited who was eligible to stand.

Mr Farage announced he was quitting after the narrow Leave victory in the EU referendum, saying : "I want my life back, and it begins right now."