6 things that saw Ukip plunge into political turmoil since Brexit


The latest unexpected twist in the political rollercoaster ride that is Ukip has added to growing uncertainty about whether the party can stay on the rails at all.

Diane James's decision to quit as leader after just 18 days in the post plunged the party into turmoil, and now her sudden move to sever all ties with it has provoked yet another bitter public row and raised more questions about Ukip's future.

It all seemed so different in June when the party pulled off one of the greatest upsets in British political history and achieved its goal of ripping the UK away from the embrace of Brussels.

So where did it all go wrong? Here are a chain of events that followed since Brexit:

1. Nigel Farage stepped down.

Nigel Farage.
(Yui Mok/PA)

Farage's insistence he needed to "get his life back" saw the scramble to be his successor unleash one of the most bizarre leadership contests in recent years in which nearly all the major players were banned from standing.

James won after refusing to debate her rivals, or come up with any new ideas.

2. Diane James quit after just 18 days in charge.

The MEP became the first woman to lead the Eurosceptic party when she won the contest to replace Farage on September 16.

But after just 18 days in charge, she stepped down.

At that time she said: "It has become clear I do not have sufficient authority, nor the full support of MEP colleagues and party officers to implement the changes I believe are necessary and upon which I based my campaign."

Citing both personal and professional reasons for stepping down, she said she would continue as MEP for South East England.

3. The "handbags in Strasbourg" incident saw Steven Woolfe in hospital.

Steven Woolfe.
(Alastair Grant/AP)

James's shock resignation then set the scene for the infamous "handbags in Strasbourg" incident which saw a "clear the air" meeting of MEPs explode into an "altercation" which later had one of them ending up in hospital.

Mike Hookem called it "handbags at dawn" stuff as he insisted he had not punched then leadership front-runner Steven Woolfe.

Resigning from a party he declared to be in a "death spiral", Woolfe insisted there had been a "blow" to his face during the altercation, but, whatever the truth, it was certainly all a major blow to the credibility of Ukip.

4. Arron Banks said he would stop his donations.

Arron Banks.
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

The party's biggest financial backer Banks appeared to share the gloomy view as he announced he was stopping donations, and mused the whole enterprise could be finished.

The tycoon now seems to have distanced himself further from Ukip with calls for a new "people's movement" to put up independent candidates at the next election.

Aping the language of Donald Trump, who he visited in New York as part of Farage's entourage, Banks said he wants to "drain the swamp" of Westminster.

And with Banks's bank balance no longer open to Ukip, the party is also facing two other major financial headaches.

5. The party has been accused of misspending EU money.

pound coins and a ten pound note
(Joe Giddens/PA)

The party is braced for a big financial sting after a European Parliament probe accused it of misspending EU money allocated to it on party workers, and partly funding Farage's failed bid to snatch South Thanet from the Tories at the last general election.

The European Parliament Bureau ruled the grouping Ukip belongs to, the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, will have to repay 172,655 euro (£146,696), and will no longer be given a grant of 248,345 euro (£211,000) previously allocated to it.

And, ironically, Brexit will also put its MEPs out of a job in 2019, denying the party the official funding they receive.

But, whatever course the people who delight in the name "Kippers" now take, judging by the past few months, it is going to be a typically bumpy ride.

6. Diane James announced she is quitting the party.

Diane James talks at Ukip's party conference
(Ben Birchall/PA)

In a statement, James said she had applied to become an independent MEP in the European Parliament.

She said that her relationship with Ukip had become "increasingly difficult" since her decision not to take up the leadership.

James said her decision not to serve as leader was prompted by the fact she had received "no support within the executive" of the party.

She said she would continue to serve constituents "effectively and diligently" as an independent for the remainder of her five-year term.