UKIP is currently in a very difficult situation as Brexit is nearing. The party went from 4 million voters in the 2015 elections to a mere 600,000 during the 2017 elections and with Paul Nuttall leaving as leader the party is now going in its third leadership election since 2016. And with Nigel Farage declining to take leadership it’s once again open game.
The most notable candidate that has announced their bid so far is Anne Marie Waters, the director of Sharia Watch UK. Waters is an activist well known for her criticism of Islamic extremism that has been entering in the UK. She was an MP candidate for UKIP on several occasions and founded PEGIDA UK, the latter which she was de-selected over as UKIP candidate.
And indeed as she’s currently running for leader the UKIP establishment has been desperate to keep her out at all costs.
But it’s hard now to keep her out as she has been endorsed by Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who has gained international fame for his fierce criticism against Islam. His party the Party for Freedom has become the second biggest party in The Netherlands after elections were held in March this year. This is the biggest endorsement any UKIP candidate has received so far.
He made his endorsement over Twitter calling her a freedom fighter and wishing her good luck with the election.
She is very brave, intelligent and strong. A real freedom fighter!
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) July 2, 2017
This endorsement seems to reinforce that Waters as leader would steer UKIP from a Faragist populist party to a more hardline anti-Islam party similar to politicians like Wilders and Le Pen. UKIP’s former leader Nigel Farage openly distanced himself from Geert Wilders’ more radical agendas such as banning the Quran.
Waters will face other candidates such as MEP and UKIP Scotland leader David Coburn, UKIP Deputy leader Peter Whittle and former Tory/UKIP Councillor Ben Walker and more are likely to announce their bid in the future. The election will be held on the 29th of September.
David Coburn has been the strongest critic of Waters and has openly defended Sharia courts in the UK. Peter Whittle on the other hand also wants to bring a more critical voice against Islam in the UK.
UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge who’s seen as another potential candidate has said of the moderate populist side and hardline anti-Islam side that “Whichever side wins, the other side won’t have a future in the party.”