Lisa Duffy battles to lead UKIP

Lisa Duffy
Image caption Cambridgeshire councillor Lisa Duffy is being backed as the next leader of UKIP

In the wake of the Brexit vote we're seeing the summer of leadership campaigns. A political realignment is key to UKIP, which to all intents and purposes has achieved its goal and could shut up shop and walk away.

Instead, along with Labour and the Green Party, UKIP is going through a leadership contest. For a party forged to force a referendum and pull us out of Europe, the challenges, now that has been achieved, are obvious. What next for the hundred plus councillors in this region, for its three MEPs and for the only UKIP MP?

Clacton MP, Douglas Carswell, has told us he is not going to publicly endorse any of the candidates, but is still stirring the pot over the former leader, Nigel Farage, whom he says was not always easy to work with. Mr Carswell hopes with good will and trust all that will change in the future.

Those are sentiments that have seemed in short supply in the contest so far, as three members of UKIP's National Executive quit after one of the favourites to take over as leader was kept off the ballot paper.

While Mr Carswell is going to keep his own council, East of England MEP Patrick O'Flynn has pinned his colours to the mast and is backing Cambridgeshire councillor Lisa Duffy for the top job.

Image caption Douglas Carswell is UKIP's sole MP, representing Clacton

"Lisa is a fantastic organiser, she's got an unrivalled commitment to UKIP... she personifies a grassroots approach and I think that will stand UKIP in very good stead, post the EU, in winning first-past-the-post elections in Britain," he told me.

'Prison is punishment'

Lisa herself has outlined the kind of policies she would like to see.

"The biggest policy for me is law and order... being tough on crime. Sentences meaning what they are, if you get five years, you serve five years... People need to understand the prison is punishment, not a holiday camp," she said.

"But also we need to be the party of the NHS. We have to make sure it is the national service, not the world health service... it needs the investment and the time. It needs developing doctors and nurses from this country, as well as taking experts from around the world."

Ms Duffy says she is setting out a positive vision for Muslims in our country, but doesn't step back from the argument over wearing the burka in public.

"We want to make sure that face coverings and that includes hoodies, crash helmets and balaclavas are not worn in areas of high security - public areas. What people do in their own home is entirely up to them, but it you are in a court, in an airport lobby or in areas such as banks, they need to be able to see your face."

UKIP's new vision

This is part of what UKIP calls a new softer approach. "We have been really hard line on immigration and we've been hard line about coming out of the EU. Now is about a softer message," said Lisa Duffy.

"It is about showing the electorate we have a wide range of policies and good ideas to suit the working man. That will make us have more than one MP in Westminster. We will be electable," she pledged.

Patrick O'Flynn agreed: "She [Lisa Duffy] is exactly the sort of person we need for the next phase of UKIP, post Nigel Farage. We don't want an imitation Nigel Farage."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption East of England MEP Patrick O'Flynn believes Lisa Duffy can succeed in the top UKIP job

We will know in September whether her particular brand of UKIP wins out, but there's no doubt the party will change, said Mr O'Flynn.

"The party needs reform. It has a choice. Does it go back to being a dry libertarian ultra-Thatcherite party that wants to cut taxes for the rich and turn a blind eye to tax avoidance by corporations?

"Or should it be a more blue collar, proper working people party, in the centre ground, fully supporting the NHS and taking corporate tax avoidance more seriously, and focussing its tax cutting offer on ordinary working people?"

He agreed that whenever there's a leadership contest, there's a battle for the hearts and minds of the party. "People get to set out their stall. You get rival camps, rival visions of the future."

For UKIP, a lot depends on which view wins.