UK Independence Party reject leader's resignation

Monday, May 11, 2015

Nigel Farage today reversed his decision to stand down as leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) after its National Executive Committee (NEC) rejected his resignation. Farage had previously said he would stand down as leader because he did not win the South Thanet seat in last week's UK general election.

"This offer was unanimously rejected by the NEC members who produced overwhelmingly evidence that the UKIP membership did not want Nigel to go", UKIP chairman Steve Crowther said in a statement. "The NEC also concluded that UKIP's general election campaign had been a great success. We have fought a positive campaign with a very good manifesto and despite relentless, negative attacks and an astonishing last minute swing to the Conservatives over fear of the SNP [Scottish National Party], that in these circumstances, 4 million votes was an extraordinary achievement. On that basis Mr Farage withdrew his resignation and will remain leader of UKIP. In addition the NEC recognised that the Proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union campaign has already begun this week and we need our best team to fight that campaign led by Nigel."

I realise now that the party comes before me, and indeed, that this country comes before both

Nigel Farage, UKIP leader

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Farage said he had been reluctant to continue being party leader but, in the face of evidence presented to him by the NEC, "I breathed deep, and thought for as long as I possibly had, given the meeting was ongoing, and still is, at my time of writing this. I decided that as much as I had earned my holidays. As much as I wanted to spend the summer fishing, walking, and of course, in the European Parliament where all hell is currently breaking loose — that I owed it to the party that got me here. There are some huge battles about to take place, and as much as I had thought that taking at least the summer off was in my best interests, I realise now that the party comes before me, and indeed, that this country comes before both."

Highlighting some issues UKIP supports, including UK withdrawal from the European Union and electoral reform, Farage said: "I feel the need to stay involved for just a little bit longer, to add my voice to those who want Britain to be a country that trades and deals with the world, rather than ties itself to a post-WWII mind set about Europe and the political union." In concluding remarks, he wrote: "Have I done the right thing by my party and my country? I think so. And I’m sure many people will have their opinions on the matter. All I can say is that I’m ready for the challenges ahead. The fight starts here."

Did Nigel Farage make the right decision?
Nigel Farage, 2014.
Image: Diliff.

Farage, who has lead the party since 2010, announced his resignation on Friday, with the recommendation that Suzanne Evans serve as interim leader. "I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders", he commented at the time. After intending to "take the summer off, enjoy meself a little bit, not do very much politics at all", Farage said, a UKIP leadership election would happen in September; he would decide whether or not to stand again as leader at a later date. On the same day, Ed Miliband had announced he would stand down as Labour leader, while Nick Clegg said he would resign as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

UKIP achieved a 12.6% share of the vote at the general election, an increase of 9.5% on their 2010 performance, placing them third behind Labour and Conservatives in terms of popular vote. However, the party gained only one seat out of 650, taken by Douglas Carswell. Farage has claimed these results illustrate how first-past-the-post, the electoral system used in UK general elections, is "bankrupt because one party can get 50% of the vote in Scotland and nearly 100% of the seats, and our party can get 4 million votes and just one seat. [...] For those reasons there are a lot of angry UKIP people out there. They're not giving up on UKIP, but absolutely determined that we get a fairer, more reflective system."

Farage was once a Conservative Party member but left the party, objecting to the UK's decision to sign the Maastricht Treaty creating the European Union, and became a founding member of UKIP in 1993. He was elected as an MEP for South East England in 1999 and began his first stint as party leader in 2006. He stood down in 2009 in an attempt to challenge House of Commons Speaker John Bercow in the 2010 general election; after this challenge proved unsuccessful, he was re-elected as party leader.