AMID UKIP’s less than smooth start to the leadership contest, Yorkshireman Mike Hookem rises above the disarray with an offer to Labour voters he believes will make them switch sides.
The Yorkshire and the Humber MEP is running to be the next deputy leader of Ukip, with West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge as leader. This duo span the left and right of the party and know best how to appeal to the working man and woman, claims Mr Hookem, a former military engineer.
He said: “Bill has always been a policy man and he’s has put a lot of policy together that will help the working man and woman and bring on the Labour vote. That is where the party is going. Everybody knows that’s our direction and we have to capitalise on this.”
The battle to take over from Nigel Farage has so far left front-runner the 48-year-old barrister and MEP Steven Woolfe embarrassed after he failed to hand in a vital leadership form before the deadline and he was deemed ineligible to stand. A previous drink-driving conviction was also unearthed by the press.
Meanwhile, former deputy chairman and suspended member Suzanne Evans took a swipe at Mr Farage, who she said had surrounded himself by “yes men” during his long tenure as leader.
On Monday Mr Farage himself chipped in with a bitter piece for right-wing American website Breitbart saying that some standing on Ukip’s National Executive Committee were among the “lowest grade of people” he had ever met.
He urges the new leader to by-pass the NEC and communicate directly with voters.
Mr Hookem says that while the party owes a great deal to Mr Farage it is time for change and to professionalise the leadership structure.
He said no one ever had to be “mates” with Mr Farage to get ahead in Ukip and his own role as defence spokesperson was gained through merit alone.
He also says Ukip is the only party able to hold the Conservatives to account on Brexit.
“As an MEP and a party we are more important than ever now. We have got Brexit but we need to hold them to account and make sure that it goes through and we get exactly what the people of Great Britain asked for, not something fudged, not Brexit-lite.
“We will be there watching everything that is going on,” said Mr Hookem, who next heads to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in September.
More investment in border security, support for grammar schools and maintaining the NHS as free at the point of delivery are among the policies he and Mr Etheridge will champion at husting events this month.
He said “No one is going to out- Farage Farage”. However, there was space for a collegiate leader like Mr Etheridge, who could bring
more people to the party.
The leadership result will be announced on September 15. Around 40,000 UKIP members will be eligible to vote.
MEP Diane James is the front runner and is promising to have a “laser focus” on the Brexit negotiations.
The profile of the party’s deputy chairwoman and home affairs spokeswoman grew after she fought the parliamentary by-election in Eastleigh, Hants, in 2013 and came close to taking the seat from the Liberal Democrats. She increased Ukip’s support in the seat by 24 per cent.
She is an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has described him as “a strong leader” who stands up for his country. A keen dancer, she also lists antiques among her interests and speaks French and German.
Jonathan Arnott is a former party general secretary who wants to make the party more professional. He has promised to hold Prime Minister Theresa May’s “feet to the fire” over Brexit.
The North East MEP is a maths teacher by profession and a chess player in his spare time. Mr Arnott also commentates on the fortunes of Scunthorpe United for Scunthorpe Hospital Radio.
A West Midlands MEP and a councillor, Bill Etheridge has a low profile outside his region. He has called for a ban on full-face veils, claiming security concerns mean people should not cover up in public places.
Mr Etheridge wants to bring back the death penalty for murder, child abuse and terrorism. He has also called for a cut in beer duty.
Former party director Lisa Duffy is chief of staff to Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn. She has the backing of former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans, who is currently suspended from the party.
The ex-TK Maxx store manager wants a “total ban” on Muslim schools but insists she is “not far-Right”.
Describing himself as a “young, passionate, northern, working-class guy”, Phillip Broughton insists he is the candidate to “broaden” Ukip’s appeal.
The sometime wrestler has pledged to focus on the “issues that the real people” are concerned about and insists “not a penny should be spent abroad whilst we have homeless people in our country”.
Little-known Ukip activist Elizabeth Jones raised eyebrows after losing her temper during a radio discussion.
Appearing to become frustrated with the turn the conversation was taking, she shouted, “Will you just shut up?” at a fellow guest during an appearance on the Voice of Africa Radio 94FM. The outburst prompted startled laughter in the studio.