'Farage-ist' Raheem Kassam launches UKIP leadership bid
UKIP leadership contender Raheem Kassam has launched his campaign, describing himself as the "Farage-ist candidate".
Speaking at a Westminster pub, Mr Kassam said the party should not be dragged "to the squishy centre ground".
The former aide to leader Nigel Farage described his ex-boss as a "political figure", adding that UKIP now also needed a "CEO, somebody who knows how to run an organisation".
The party's new leader will be named on 28 November.
There are currently six candidates, with nominations closing on Monday. Mr Farage, who stepped down in the summer, returned to the leader's role on an interim basis after his successor, Diane James, resigned only 18 days into the job.
Speaking at his campaign launch, Mr Kassam promised to "make UKIP great again".
But, amid recent reports of party infighting, he said it now needed a leader who was "not just a political figure, but a CEO, somebody who knows how to run an organisation".
He added: "That's not to say that Nigel didn't try. But frankly he was trying so hard to get us out of the European Union and credit to him for that, that he can be forgiven for some of that, for all of that."
Mr Kassam said he would modernise UKIP funding and local branches, reform the National Executive Committee and set up a management board.
It was a party that could represent "Brexit voters, especially who are currently represented by Remain MPs", he added.
He warned the party against being dragged "to the squishy centre ground", claiming that patriotism, pride and aspiration in the UK had been "beaten down by the liberal left".
Mr Kassam pledged to increase UKIP's membership to 100,000 by the next general election, adding: "If I don't deliver it, I want you to sack me."
The party had 39,000 members as of July, according to the House of Commons Library.
Confirmed UKIP leadership contenders
- Suzanne Evans
- Raheem Kassam
- David Kurten
- Paul Nuttall
- John Rees Evans
- Peter Whittle