New UKIP Leader Diane James: My Political Heroes? Thatcher, Churchill - and Putin

Ukip’s new leader has confirmed that Vladimir Putin is one of her political “heroes”.

In an interview on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, Diane James named Thatcher and Winston Churchill as figures who had inspired her, but also agreed to the addition of Putin.

When asked “other than Vladimir Putin, who is your main political hero?” she said “I can’t think of anyone apart from maybe Thatcher and Churchill”.

When pressed to confirm “So, Putin, Churchill and Thatcher?”, she replied “Uh-huh”.

Her remarks - which prompted a swift reaction on Twitter - prompted claims that in her very first live interview as UKIP leader James had already made her first gaffe.

This comes as Putin’s party goes to the polls in elections that are predicted to give him another five years in power.

James has previously said she admires the Russian leader, saying he was a “a strong leader” in an LBC interview.

She said: “I admire him from the point of view that he’s standing up for his country.”

When challenged by Harriet Harman, who said: “You could say that about Idi Amin”, James replied: “I do admire him, he’s a very strong leader, he’s putting Russia first.”

Farage famously admitted his admiration for Putin to Labour’s former director of communications Alistair Campbell, in an interview for GQ.

Unlike James, however, he tempered his reply, saying he did not wholeheartedly approve of the Russian leader.

Asked which current world leader he most admired, Farage replied: “As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin.”

“The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?”