Like something out of Game of Thrones, the eternal battle for control of UKIP rages on.
It feels like just yesterday we were writing a blog highlighting the incredible CV of Freddy Vachha when he became the leader of UKIP, with his questionable descriptions of former job roles and fascinating hobbies.
After less than three months at the helm, it appears that Vachha’s reign is over already. The party released a statement saying that he had “been suspended from membership of Ukip, pending a formal investigation of a complaint of bullying, harassment, verbal abuse and other conduct likely to bring the party into disrepute”, which automatically removed him from the leadership as well.
The party moved swiftly to replace him, announcing that the NEC had voted unanimously to install Neil Hamilton as interim leader. Hamilton, the climate change-denying disgraced former Conservative MP, has been the leader of Welsh UKIP since 2016 and is its last remaining member in the Senedd, after numerous defections.
However, in a plot twist like something out of a medieval dynastic succession, Vachha then went on Twitter to declare that rumours of his dismissal had been greatly exaggerated. Claiming to have been the victim of an illegitimate coup attempt by party chairman Ben Walker, Vachha stated that the party’s rules prevented his removal and that he would continue in post. In fact, he claimed, it was Walker who had been kicked out, having been removed as Chairman on 29th of August and suspended from the party on September 11th for unspecified reasons.
However, Vachha did concede that Walker had possession of “all of the party’s intangible and other assets, website & social media passwords, and membership databases”, which does appear to be something of an obstacle to any plans he might have had. He also made the claim that UKIP “had moved from under 1% to over 3% in the polls” during his brief leadership, but that does not appear to be the case in any recent polls that we’ve been able to find.
Since Nigel Farage resigned following the 2016 Brexit Referendum, the party has been led by ten different people (including interim leaders), most of whom resigned or were forced out under a cloud of recriminations and bad blood. Remarkably, Vachha’s three months as leader actually exceeds the reigns of two predecessors: Diane James (18 days) and Richard Braine (2.5 months).
It remains to be seen whether Hamilton can hold on to the job for long enough to turn the party’s fortunes around. He might be advised not to unpack his suitcase (and any brown envelopes therein) just yet.