UK Politics

Diane James: Why I quit as UKIP leader after 18 days

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Media captionDiane James tells 5 live's Emma Barnett why she quit as UKIP leader after 18 days

Former UKIP leader Diane James has said she resigned after just 18 days in the job because of an inability to break up the party's "old guard".

In her first broadcast interview since resigning, she told BBC 5 live Daily she felt she could not "continue to bang [her] head against a brick wall".

Ms James said false reports she had stepped down because of her husband's ill health had caused her anxiety.

She also revealed her "awkwardness" over a planned kiss with Nigel Farage.

Ms James, an MEP for South East England, caused shock in early October when she resigned, having won the party's leadership only 18 days earlier.

In an interview with 5 live Daily's Emma Barnett, she told of her frustrations in the role, saying: "One can obviously continue to bang your head against a brick wall, going to bed at night hoping things might change and that you might be able to make a breakthrough.

"But when it became clear I couldn't make that breakthrough, I felt it was the right decision for me and the credibility of the party that someone else assume the mantle."

Asked if she found it hard to get rid of UKIP's "old guard", she responded: "Yes, that's a very good description."

At the time of her departure, it was reported that Ms James's husband was in poor health, but she said: "My husband was not very ill, and neither was he at death's door, and it was quite frankly irresponsible journalism.

"By concocting a story and deciding that family illness could be a factor, that story then effectively grew, developed legs and went viral, and it caused an immense amount of upset and anxiety and unhappiness."

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Media captionDiane James tells 5 live's Emma Barnett why her kiss with Nigel Farage didn't go to plan

When she resigned, her predecessor Nigel Farage took over the leadership again on an interim basis.

After she was elected in September, Ms James kissed Mr Farage on stage, with photographs seeming to show her flinching.

She said: "Nigel and I spoke just before I went on stage and he said, 'Look this is what we're going to do. The plan is I'm going to give you a greeting and there's going to be a kiss on the cheek'.

"And we agreed which side the kiss was going to be. But anyway something happened... I went to him with the appointed cheek and he went the other way... That's why there was a little bit of awkwardness."

Ms James, who also announced last month that she was quitting UKIP entirely, said Mr Farage had not apologised for calling the decision "an act of irrational selfishness" and that they had not spoken since.

She said: "It was not a nice series of words to hear from someone I admire and respect... but I understand he was upset."

Last month MEP Paul Nuttall was elected as the new leader of UKIP.

Listen to the interview in full on Radio 5 live Daily with Emma Barnett

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