Paul Nuttall elected Ukip leader after year of triumph and turmoil for pro-Brexit party

Paul Nuttall succeeds Nigel Farage as new Ukip leaderWochit

Paul Nuttall has beaten off his two rivals to succeed Diane James and become Ukip's new leader, the party announced in Westminster on Monday (28 November). The North West MEP and Merseyside-born politician is now expected to target Labour heartland seats in the north of England.

Nuttall, 39, had campaigned on a unity platform throughout the election and promised to pressure Theresa May on delivering a Brexit. Peter Whittle, a London Assembly member, was elected deputy leader while Paul Oakden remains chairman.

He was favourite to win the contest ever since he threw his hat into the ring, beating former deputy chair Suzanne Evans and ex-parliamentary candidate John Rees-Evans.

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In a response to the election of the Ukip leader, a Conservative party spokesman said: "Now on their third leader in as many months, Ukip are too divided, distracted and incompetent to offer any serious solutions for the people of Britain.

"After a leadership contest, which the winner himself has described as 'completely shambolic' we've seen brawls and squabbling – but nothing about the issues facing ordinary working people," he said.

"It's the Conservative Party which held a referendum and is now delivering on the people's verdict. We will deliver Brexit and more control on immigration while UKIP continue to squabble on the sidelines."

The year 2016 marked a high point for Ukip with the Brexit vote in June. But Farage's resignation after the ballot – to get "my life back" – triggered a leadership election that saw more in-fighting.

James won the contest, but quit after just 18 days in the job. Steven Woolfe became the new favourite to succeed Farage until an "altercation" with Mike Hookem in the European Parliament in Strasbourg left him hospitalised.

The incident also damaged Woolfe's chances of winning the new leadership election. He later dropped out of the contest and the party altogether, warning that Ukip was in a "death spiral".

James would follow Woolfe's lead in November, and now sits as an independent MEP in the European Parliament. Ukip's sole MP Douglas Carswell, meanwhile, welcomed Monday's election as a "reset".

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However, the party faces big financial and political uncertainty as major Ukip donor and Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks has talked about creating a new anti-establishment political movement, while the Conservative government have now adopted a pro-grammar schools position – a policy that used to differentiate Ukip from its rivals.

Nuttall is hoping to take advantage of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership by appealing to socially-conservative Labour voters.

However, the Oldham West and Royton by-election in December 2015, before the Brexit vote, saw Labour comprehensively beat Ukip into second place.

Labour's Jim McMahon even increased his party's share of the vote compared to the general election (62% versus 52%), while Ukip's John Bickley won just over 23% of the vote, up 2.8% from last May.

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