2 announce bids to lead fractious party that pushed 'Brexit'

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2016 10:40 AM
2 announce bids to lead fractious party that pushed 'Brexit'

LONDON (AP) — Two rival candidates announced bids Sunday to lead Britain's fractious right-wing U.K. Independence Party — both warning that UKIP faces extinction if it doesn't change.

Suzanne Evans, a former journalist who has clashed with longtime leader Nigel Farage, said UKIP must shed its "toxic image" and move from the right to the "common-sense center."

Evans told the BBC that "at times there has been too much testosterone in UKIP," and said the party could not win if it moved to the far right.

Paul Nuttall, a former UKIP deputy leader, said he would be a unity candidate to save a party that was "looking over the edge of a political cliff."

"I believe that I am the man to bring the factions together," Nuttall told the BBC.

Nuttall served as deputy to Farage, but distanced himself from the outgoing leader's support of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"I personally wouldn't have gone out and campaigned or said anything about Donald Trump," Nuttall said, branding both Trump and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton "quite appalling."

A small anti-European Union party, UKIP was instrumental in getting Britain to hold a referendum on EU membership, which ended in a June 23 vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.

The result was a political triumph for UKIP; Farage stepped down after the referendum, saying he had accomplished what he wanted to with the win. But since gaining its long-sought goal the party has been torn by infighting.

Earlier this month, UKIP European lawmaker Steven Woolfe was hospitalized in a neurological unit after an altercation with a party colleague inside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France.

Woolfe had been the favorite to become UKIP's next leader, but announced last week he is quitting the party.

One divide in the party is between allies of Farage — a hearty populist who charms some voters and repels others — and those including Evans and UKIP's sole member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who want the party to become more professional and centrist.

Farage's first replacement, Diane James, quit after 18 days. Farage is serving as interim leader until a new chief is announced on Nov. 28.

Besides Evans and Nuttall, three other candidates have announced they are running.