UK Politics: Farage to abandon Ukip and form new movement?

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Ukip face an existential crisis (again) after party members voted to sack Henry Bolton, sparking their fourth leadership contest in 18 months. But don't bet on Nigel Farage succeeding him, says Max Liu...

"You know what they say about rats abandoning sinking ships - Farage could be about to launch a new political organisation, which has already been dubbed "the Momentum of the Right", alongside multi-millionaire Ukip donor Aaron Banks."

British politics has produce several surprises in recent years: the Tories' winning a majority in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader the same year, the UK voting to leave the European Union in the 2016, the Tories losing their majority last summer - all upset the odds, rewarding brave bettors and sending shockwaves through the political order, not to mention the polling firms.

One constant, though, has been the coming and going of Ukip leaders. When it comes to job security, managers of Watford football club are better off than leaders of the purple party. After Henry Bolton was sacked yesterday, Ukip will now hold their fourth leadership contest in 18 months.

Ukip politicians lack personality and purpose

Ever since Nigel Farage stepped down in 2016, Ukip have been unable to find another leader with charisma and struggled to adapt to the political climate in Britain following the in-out referendum result. There are those who say that, once Britain voted to the leave the EU, Ukip should have decided their work was done and called it a day. Conversely, Ukip politicians insist they can put pressure on the government to deliver Brexit.

Diane James succeeded Farage as leader but lasted a mere 18 days in the job. Then Farage returned as temporary leader before Paul Nuttall took the job in late 2016. Nuttall performed poorly as the party's candidate in a Stoke-On-Trent by-election then lead them to a pitiful general election performance in 2017, as Ukip slipped from the four million votes they won in 2015 to 600,000.

Nuttall was succeeded by Bolton in September last year. Yes, party members backed a vote of no confidence in Bolton and Gerard Batten, who has previously called Islam a "death-cult", took over as interim leader.

Will Farage return or set up new party?

The latest Ukip leadership contest will be held within 90 days (Bolton only managed 141 days in the job). So far, there's scant liquidity in the market but commentators are already speculating that Farage could stand for the leadership again.

Farage has said he has no plan to stand for leadership again but that's not necessarily reason enough to rule him out. After all, Farage has been leader of Ukip three times (although that includes his 2016 stint as interim leader) already. He's also stood for Parliament seven times and failed to get elected as an MP on each occasion.

If reports are to be believed then backing Farage might not be the wisest bet. You know what they say about rats abandoning sinking ships and Farage could be about to launch a new political organisation, which has already been dubbed "the Momentum of the Right", alongside multi-millionaire Ukip donor Aaron Banks.

London Assembly Member David Kurten is a leading candidate to succeed Bolton but the smart money could be on Tim Aker who, at 32, would be Ukip's youngest leader yet. Aker is an MEP who performed well as Ukip's parliamentary candidate for Thurrock at the 2015 general election, only lost by a narrow margin in a close three-way race.

Boris Johnson's speech - an attempt to heal wounds or reboot leadership ambitions?

Boris Johnson made a speech this week in which he urged Britons to be optimistic about Brexit. Is the Foreign Secretary regretting his role in the Leave campaign? Has he realised that he's lead his country down a disastrous path and has lost the trust of voters? Regardless, the speech did his reputation no good and, according to bettors, hasn't helped his chances of becoming Tory leader.

Johnson is [9.4] to be next leader, behind favourite Jacob Rees-Mogg [5.4], while other candidates, such as Amber Rudd [14.0], Dominic Raab [16.5] and Tom Tugendhat [44.0], look promising at longer odds.

Increasingly, when it comes to the future of the Conservative Party, Johnson looks like a busted flush. If he really is determined to lead a party then perhaps he should look elsewhere - after all, I can think of one pro-Brexit party that are looking for a leader and might welcome him with open arms.

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