UK Politics

Profile: Diane James, former UKIP leader

Diane James Image copyright Getty Images

Diane James was elected the new leader of the UK Independence Party, after winning the contest to succeed Nigel Farage. But 18 days later she announced she would not be "formalising" the nomination.

Once a Conservative supporter, she distanced herself from the party and became an independent councillor in 2007, before joining UKIP.

One of UKIP's most fluent and reliable media performers, Ms James, 56, has held several high profile roles in the party, including the deputy chairmanship and spokeswoman for justice and home affairs.

She rose to prominence in the party after almost winning the 2013 Eastleigh by-election from the Lib Dems, coming within fewer than 2,000 votes of victory. She impressed journalists with her performance and relegated the Conservatives in to third place.

Ms James went on to enjoy greater electoral success the following year, when she was elected to the European Parliament as MEP for South East England - a position she still holds today.

Rising through the ranks

As UKIP's deputy chair and home affairs and justice spokeswoman Ms James maintained a high profile in the party's ranks.

The MEP was selected to stand as its parliamentary candidate in North West Hampshire in 2015, but she later dropped her bid "personal reasons". But she would go on to play a prominent role in UKIP's election campaign.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Diane James promised to bring a new style of leadership to UKIP

While seen as measured and steady, Ms James has not shied away from making the odd controversial comment, saying during an LBC radio interview in April 2015 that she "admired" Russian President Vladimir Putin for his leadership strength.

"I admire him from the point of view that he is standing up for his country," she said in response to a question about Russian aggression in Ukraine. "He's very nationalist... I do admire him. He is a very strong leader."

She also publicly criticised her predecessor as chairwoman, Suzanne Evans, describing her as "a woman scorned" after Ms Evans sought and lost a High Court bid to overturn a temporary suspension from the party - a ban which ultimately prevented her from running for the leadership.

Leadership pitch

In her pitch to succeed Mr Farage, who has led the party for almost all of the past nine years, Ms James pledged to bring a "different" leadership style to UKIP, saying she would harness the "scale of depth of talent" among the party's membership, local representatives and MEPs.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The former healthcare professional is fluent in French and German

But she encountered criticism from some in the party during the leadership campaign, after failing to take part in hustings with the other candidates.

Philip Broughton, one of those candidates, accused her of "undemocratic" campaign tactics, but Ms James defended her decision, saying she could answer more of activists' questions at her own events.

Prior to entering politics, Ms James was a businesswomen and healthcare professional, specialising in healthcare strategy development, innovation and business transformation.

She was educated at Rochester Grammar School and Thames Valley University and lists fitness, dance, antiques and travel among her interests.

She is also fluent in French and German.

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