Can an app save Ukip? Direct democracy drive dominates leadership race

Peter Whittle and John Rees-Evans reach out to the party's grassroots after a 'terrible loss' in morale.

Related: Paul Nuttall resigns as Ukip leaderITN

Ukip faces fading into irrelevance as the two-year-long Brexit talks begin and the party's supporters flock to the Conservatives and Labour. But Peter Whittle, Ukip's current deputy leader who is hoping to succeed Paul Nuttall, claimed that the so called "People's Party" had a "remarkable and exciting future" on Wednesday 12 July.

Whittle, amongst other things, promised to set-up regional training centres for parliamentary candidates, create a smartphone app and establish a new website in bid to reach out to Ukip's current members and attract new ones.

"The connection between local parties and the central organisation has worn very thin and in some cases it has broken down. I will make sure that this will be restored," he said.

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"It's simply unacceptable that members feel ignored, unsupported or locked out of the decision making process."

Whittle, an ally of Nigel Farage, also attacked Nuttall's decision to stand aside for pro-Brexit candidates at the election, with Ukip attracting more than 594,000 votes from 377 parliamentary constituencies, down from 3.8 million in 2015 when the party contested 624 seats.

"We will make a rule not to endorse or stand aside for any other party or candidate. The days where we help prop-up the two-party system are over," said Whittle.

"Standing aside at the last election, led us not just inconsistencies and a terrible loss in morale, but it wiped away even the possibility of 1.9 million voters even before we started. If we want to act like a proper political party, we must act like one."

Elsewhere, Whittle, who blamed multiculturalism for the "fragmentation" of the UK and said fighting "Islamism" should be of paramount importance for Ukip, defended his party's record on stamping out racism and stopping far-right infiltrations.

"We are the only party which actually has organisations in the constitution that if you have been a member of it you cannot join Ukip," he told IBTimes UK. The former TV producer's focus on direct democracy came as John Rees-Evans, who came third in the last leadership race, entered the contest.

Rees-Evans, who apologised last year for claiming that a "gay donkey" raped his horse, wants to consult all Ukip members on policy-making and decision making at "every step of the way".

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"Ukip played an enormous role in getting a referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the EU," he said.

"Now that this hurdle is surmounted, it is time for Ukip to put forward a real post-Brexit plan for Britain; and who better to shape it than the people who fought so hard to govern their own lives? We are offering something truly and radically different. I believe the party members, and the public, will fearlessly walk with me on this new and exciting journey."

Elsewhere, anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters has announced her intention to run for the top Ukip job.

Walters, who runs the Sharia Watch website and has called Islam "evil", was blocked from running in the 2016 London Assembly elections and deselected as a general election candidate in 2017.

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Waters has been endorsed by former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, prompting fears of a far-right takeover of Ukip.

Ukip's ruling body, the 15-strong National Executive Committee, will decide if the potential candidates, including Bill Etheridge MEP and Ukip London Assembly member David Kurten, are able to go through to the next round of the contest.

Nominations will close on 28 July, with a final list of candidates being published on 18 August and the new leader announced at Ukip's annual conference on 29 September

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