Does Diane James have what it takes?

Diane James has won UKIP’s leadership contest, with 8451 votes out of a total of 17,790. In a contest between five candidates she secured a whopping 47% of the vote. Her closest rival got 4000 fewer votes, and just 26% of the total vote count. But then James, who was widely regarded as the most capable of the candidates, had been the favourite to win.

In her acceptance speech, James suggested that the EU’s future is in jeopardy:

“We have only just won a heat in a 28-member state Olympic competition to leave the European Union”.

But she warned that “threats to the referendum outcome are increasing by the day”. James also urged the Prime Minister to “get on” with the job of invoking article 50.

Following Britain’s Leave vote, UKIP will aim to apply pressure on the government to deliver a so-called “hard Brexit”.

James’ problem is that she does not have the charisma, energy and bullishness of Farage, who will be a tough act to follow.

If James wants to be effective in putting pressure on the government, she will have to maintain UKIP’s current level of support. While UKIP voters have been steadfast in their support for Farage’s UKIP, it isn’t obvious that James can retain their loyalty. Her first speech to the membership was not altogether encouraging for UKIP’s prospects. It lacked the energetic and confident delivery of a Farage speech. But it had something of his defiance, with digs at “Magpie May” for nicking UKIP policies, for example. With UKIP currently polling at 13%, it will be interesting to see how the party’s support fairs in the coming months…

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has said that he will remain involved in politics by commenting on matters in the UK, paying visits to Eurosceptic parties on the continent and perhaps making another foray into American politics.

Farage has urged UKIP voters to support James’ leadership. But it’s been suggested that he could yet return to UKIP’s helm were the PM to bottle Brexit. We could yet see another “unresignation” in the future.