NIGEL Farage has confirmed he will be stepping down as Ukip leader after failing to win Thanet South from the Conservatives.
He lost out to Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay by almost 3,000 votes.
Mr Farage, polled 16,026 votes, but the Tory candidate did better, winning the backing of 18,838, with Labour third.
But Mr Farage raised the prospect he would consider running to return to the job after a summer off when the contest is held in September.
He said he would recommend Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman, be a stand-in leader until the leadership challenge is complete.
Mr Farage said in his earlier concession speech that an “enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders”, adding that he had “never felt happier”.
Announcing his resignation, he said: “I’m a man of my word, I shall be writing to the Ukip national executive in a few minutes, saying I am standing down as leader of Ukip.
“I shall recommend that ... they put in place as acting leader Suzanne Evans who I think has emerged from this campaign as an absolute tower of strength within Ukip.”
He added: “Personally, there’s a bit of me that is disappointed but there is a bit of me that feels better than I have felt for many, many years.
“It really has been seven days a week, totally unrelenting, and occasionally let down by people who perhaps haven’t said and done the right things.
“I haven’t had a fortnight’s holiday since October 1993. I intend to take the summer off, enjoy myself a bit.
“There will be a leadership election for the next leader of Ukip in September and I will consider over the course of this summer whether to put my name forward to do that job again.”
Conservative Craig Mackinlay won Thanet South by almost 3,000 votes, racking up 18,838 to Mr Farage’s 16,026.
The result leaves Ukip with just one MP - Douglas Carswell, who held Clacton on a reduced majority.
Mark Reckless, who along with Mr Carswell defected from the Tories last year and won a by-election, lost Rochester and Strood.