Bill Etheridge - I'll stand for UKIP leadership if Nigel Farage won't
Bill Etheridge says he will make another bid for UKIP leadership - but only if he can't persuade Nigel Farage to return to the fold.
Dudley councillor Mr Etheridge said he is due to meet former UKIP leader Mr Farage in Brussels later this week to discuss the future of the party.
He said he plans to persuade Mr Farage to return as replacement for Paul Nuttall, who quit in the aftermath of UKIP's disastrous General Election result.
"If Nigel decides he does not want to come back then I will definitely make my own bid for leadership," said Mr Etheridge, who came third in the first of two UKIP leadership elections last year.
"I've got a lot more support than I did last time. My pitch is simply to run the party on the principles that have been previously set out by Nigel."
Mr Farage stood down as UKIP leader following the EU referendum, but Mr Etheridge says there is 'huge support' for his return from within party ranks.
“Nigel is the best man for the job by a country mile and there is huge support for him to come back,” Mr Etheridge said.
“We’re expecting a decision from him in due course and there are still a few important issues to discuss behind the scenes.
“At the moment the chances of him making a return are no better than 50/50, but I will be doing everything I can to persuade him that this is the right time for him to take the reins.”
UKIP’s Scottish MEP David Coburn has said he will stand for the party’s leadership ‘to stop entryists, dilettantes and single issue loonies’.
Other candidates are likely to include UKIP deputy leader Peter Whittle and John Rees-Evans, who came third in the November 2016 leadership campaign that was won by Paul Nuttall.
Anne Marie Waters, who has previously described Islam as ‘evil’ and is the founder and director of Sharia Watch UK, is also said to be considering a tilt at the top job.
Mr Nuttall stood down as UKIP leader after the party failed to win any seats in the General Election.