UKIP elects its first female leader as Nigel Farage bows out

Diane James inherits a party riven by infighting and bitterness

UKIP elects its first female leader as Nigel Farage bows out

Diane James celebrates with Nigel Farage after being named as the new leader of UKIP | Photo: PA Images

Diane James has been made leader of UKIP and now faces the task of reuniting a party riven by infighting and bitterness.

It comes after Nigel Farage said he is "four-square" behind the party but warned: "We won the war, now we must win the peace."

Giving his final conference speech as leader, he said UKIP was the only party who could hold the British government to account over Brexit but it had to be "healthy and strong".

"We won the war but we now must win the peace," he told supporters.

Facing down criticism that with the EU referendum outcome UKIP was a spent force, Mr Farage said the party still had much to do and stood to benefit from a "deluge" of votes from dispirited Labour supporters.

And he urged supporters to continue to fight the fight against politicians, including British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who were still fighting the Remain case and trying to ensure a "soft Brexit rather than a hard Brexit".

To rapturous applause, the leader, who has come to define UKIP over the past decade, thanked members gathered in Bournemouth and said: "We did it, we got our country back."

Defection

His speech comes as one of his closest aides defected to the Conservatives, saying that Theresa May had delivered on all elements of the UKIP manifesto.

She told the Guardian that "ideologically the Tories are doing the UKIP dance now".

In sharp criticism she said the party had become more "aggressive and testosterone-fuelled" in the later stages of Mr Farage's leadership and infighting had taken hold.

Speaking before Mr Farage, outgoing deputy leader Paul Nuttall said the party had been plagued by squabbling that had left it resembling a "jigsaw that has been emptied on to the floor".

He called for an end to the split, saying he feared for the future of the party.

Mr Nuttall told delegates: "I will be frank at this point, because I can be now. UKIP has not been a happy camp for over a year, and the animosity has spilt over into the media.

"No one, no one has emerged from this with their head held high."

In a short speech, Mr Farage told the conference that UKIP had "changed the centre of gravity of British politics" and thanked members for helping him deliver Brexit.

He said had given "everything" to his role as leader and it had been his "life's work", but now it was time for him to "have his life back".

He hinted that he could go to the US, where he has already given speeches alongside Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

And he warned out of office he would become even more outspoken.