UK Politics

UKIP hopeful Steven Woolfe misses leadership deadline

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Media captionSteven Woolfe describes battling with the online system to register for UKIP leader vote

MEP Steven Woolfe, seen as the frontrunner to succeed Nigel Farage as UKIP leader, has missed the deadline for submitting his nomination.

Mr Woolfe blamed technical issues with the site and insisted he was still in the race - but this has not been officially confirmed by the party.

He submitted his application at 11:35 BST - before the noon deadline - but it "did not successfully go through until 12:17", his spokesman said.

Candidates will be named on Tuesday.

Other contenders to succeed Mr Farage are thought to include Huntingdonshire councillor Lisa Duffy and MEPs Jonathan Arnott and Bill Etheridge.

Meanwhile, Mr Farage hit out at the party's National Executive Committee, which he said was made up of "amateurs" and "the lowest grade of people I have ever met".

He urged his successor to "bypass" the governing body and "make big decisions about UKIP's future via direct polling of the membership".

'I'm pressing submit'

UKIP's leader in the Welsh Assembly, Neil Hamilton, said Mr Woolfe should not be able to run for the party's leadership if his nomination was submitted late.

But explaining his difficulties, Mr Woolfe, a north west England MEP and UKIP immigration spokesman, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I did feel like I was in a scene from Little Britain's 'computer say no'.

"But at 11.35 yesterday I managed to be on the phone with my bank to prove that the £5,000 had been transferred over."

He said he had been speaking to a party official "at four minutes to 12, telling him 'I'm pressing the button for submit'" - and that he had sent pictures, upon request, to prove it.

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Media captionNigel Farage resigns as UKIP leader: 'I want my life back'

He said there had been issues with the online system before and told Today that it showed UKIP needed to "professionalise".

Asked if he would pursue legal action if his application was rejected, he replied: "I hope it wouldn't come to that.

"Hopefully they recognise that everybody in the country now sometimes looks at their computer screens and screams at it when something is not working but we have a system in place that didn't seem to work properly that day."

'Last minute'

Mr Woolfe also said claims that his party membership had temporarily lapsed in 2014 - which could affect his eligibility to stand under the party's rules - were "false".

"On March 17 2011, I paid over £1,500 to the party. Part of that was to the patrons' club and the remainder was to have a five-year membership that ran out in 2016 in March," he said.

Image caption Lisa Duffy is among others to have put their names forward

Mr Hamilton, who is backing MEP Jonathan Arnott to be leader, said it was "ironic" that Mr Woolfe was standing on a platform to make UKIP more "professional" and "yet it seems he can't get his nomination papers in on time".

He told BBC Wales: "I think there are rules which have to be observed. It's not something there's any discretion about, the NEC has to abide by the rules, everybody has to do that, and if anybody is late in submitting nomination papers, I'm afraid that's it.

"I mean he's stood for election enough times, why did he leave it to the last minute, to the 59th minute of the 11th hour? If something goes wrong it's too late to do anything about it."

The leadership contest has been sparked by Nigel Farage, who led the party for most of the past eight years, standing down after the UK's vote to leave the EU.

A number of high-profile figures, including deputy leader Paul Nuttall, former deputy chair Suzanne Evans and UKIP's sole MP Douglas Carswell have ruled themselves out.

To stand, candidates each needed the backing of a proposer and 50 supporters from at least 10 UKIP branches - and to have been a member for the past two years.

The final list of candidates will be considered by the vetting committee of the party's national executive, before being announced on Tuesday, a UKIP spokesman said.

The winner will be announced on 15 September.

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