The UK Independence Party leadership contest took another twist after candidate John Rees-Evans walked out of a hustings event in Newport, Wales.
The 38-year-old former soldier was the third out of four candidates to make a speech at the hustings, alongside favourite Paul Nuttall, Suzanne Evans and Peter Whittle.
Speaking after Ms Evans and Mr Whittle, Mr Rees-Evans made a passionate five-minute speech, in which he condemned the party’s wish for “a quiet, decorous coronation” and said that a vote for the other candidates would be a vote for “business as usual”, echoing the thoughts of Raheem Kassam, who withdrew from the contest on Monday. He also spoke of having been cautioned by a party official, believed to be Party Chairman Paul Oakden, for criticising Ms Evans during a debate between the four candidates on LBC radio on Monday. Last week, Mr Kassam, during a Facebook livestream, said that he had made complaints to the Party Chairman regarding smears against his campaign, and on his campaign website after announcing his withdrawal, said: “I was disappointed that incidents whereby Members of the European Parliament are using party databases to effectively campaign against me – ostensibly against the rules – were not challenged.”
Mr Rees-Evans also announced that he would “embark” on a solo campaign, “travelling the width and breadth of the country to engage with normal members.” Diane James, who was elected leader of the party of September 16th and resigned 18 days later, chose to undertake a similar process in her campaign over the summer. A bemused Mr Nuttall apparently said, when standing at the lectern: “How do I follow that?”
With that, Mr Rees-Evans left the The Neon arena to applause from sections of the assembled audience. Upon his departure, Mr Rees-Evans told a BBC reporter that he had been asked “not to rock the boat”.
Sam Gould, the Chairman of UKIP Caerphilly, told NMC Europe: “I’ve known all the candidates for a long time, and was keeping an open mind about the contest before tonight. But having listened to what John said, I will be backing him now. What he said got standing ovations from sections of the audience, and I found myself standing-up too. He didn’t ‘storm out’ like some people are reporting, he manouvred himself well out of the venue.” When asked if Mr Rees-Evans is now the remaining ‘Faragist’ candidate with Mr Kassam out of the running, Mr Gould said: “Yes – policy-wise he is similar to Raheem. John is a gentlemen and has done so much for UKIP, helping them produce party political broadcasts and has raised a lot of money for the party, too.”
A transcript of Mr Rees-Evans’s full speech is available on his Facebook page.
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