Former Ukip Deputy Chairman Suzanne Evans today backed a virtual unknown to take over as leader of the party as she made a series of digs at Nigel Farage.
Evans, who is currently suspended from the party and unable to stand, announced she was supporting Lisa Duffy to succeed Farage in the current leadership election.
Duffy, who is a councillor in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, is a well known figure among Ukip activists, but unknown to the public at large.
However, Evans believes Duffy can wrestle the party free from the hard right ‘Tea Party’ image cultivated under Farage and his allies.
In a speech in Westminster, Evans said: “In this leadership contest, Ukip’s Tea Party tendancy – people obsessed with US Republican conventions – are well represented on the ballot paper.
“I’m determined that Ukip members must also have the opportunity to vote for a common sense future for our party and that is what Lisa represents.”
As well as being a councillor in Ramsey, Duffy works as Chief of Staff to Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn - the only one of the party’s European parliamentarians to back support campaign group Vote Leave in the EU referendum campaign instead of the Farage-endorsed Leave.EU.
Duffy also played a key role in administrating the ground campaign in the Ukip’s two Westminster by-election wins in 2014 in Clacton and Rochester and Strood.
Ukip donor Arron Banks, who is backing MEP Steven Woolfe to succeed Farage, mocked the idea that Duffy could win.
Evans backing of Duffy as Ukip leader further highlights the tumultuous year the former Merton Councillor has endured.
After being recommended by Farage to take over as acting leader when he stood down after his General Election failure in may 2015, Evans found herself out in the cold upon his return after just three days.
In the past 12 months she has been sacked as the party’s welfare spokesman, as well as stripped of her position as Deputy Chairman.
Evans was overlooked as the party’s candidate for London Mayor, and was then suspended from Ukip after criticising a ‘gay cure’ candidate who we standing for the party.
Today, she took a series of digs at Farage as she announced her support for Duffy.
Evans said: “Lisa isn’t the kind of woman who surrounds herself with ‘yes’ men.
“Ukip will be much more consensual and much more united with Lisa Duffy in charge.”
After claiming Duffy “champions the NHS”, Evans accused the Ukip leadership of being “disappointingly equivocal on the NHS in the past.”
Evans added: “She will represent the clean, vital break with the past that we so desperately need. Never knowingly seen in a velvet-collared coat, Lisa is a woman who can’t possibly be compared to Nigel. She’ll be a very different kind of leader.”
Other Ukip members seeking the leadership are MEPs Bill Etheridge and Jonathan Arnott.