Bill Etheridge: It's my time to lead Ukip and make the Black Country a post-Brexit industrial powerhouse
Bill Etheridge has today announced his intention to stand for the Ukip leadership, vowing to transform the Black Country into a 'post-Brext industrial powerhouse'.
The West Midlands MEP said his party needed 'a new lease of life' following 18 months of turmoil and insisted: "It's my time to lead."
It came as scandal-hit Henry Bolton's short reign in the top job came to an end when was sacked by a members' vote at an emergency meeting on Saturday.
Dudley councillor Mr Etheridge told the Express & Star: "I am now actively sounding people out for support and I have already had a lot of people contact me saying it is time for me to stand.
"When the election comes I believe that this is the right time for me and to make sure we have a West Midlands-based leader of a national party for a change."
He continued: "I want UKIP to have a strong focus on a manufacturing renaissance for the country.
"We'll be looking at bringing back those traditional jobs to the UK that we have lost over a period of decades in changes that have badly hurt the West Midlands.
"Post-Brexit we will be looking at making the Black Country an industrial powerhouse again."
- Conspiracy theories, a lost bank card and a media scrum: Calamitous Bolton dumped as UKIP lives to fight another day - SKETCH by Pete Madeley
Mr Etheridge was a vocal opponent of Mr Bolton, who had been given a vote of no confidence by the ruling NEC after he refused to cut ties with Jo Marney – his 25-year-old former girlfriend who posted racist messages about Meghan Markle.
Today Mr Etheridge described his sacking as 'an enormous relief for members from all sides of the party'.
"He was an absolute disaster and had to go for the good of Ukip," he added.
Gerard Batten has taken over as Ukip's interim leader for the next 90 days, making him the party's eighth leader since Nigel Farage resigned after the EU referendum.
Mr Etheridge came third in the Ukip leadership election in September 2016, and was also prepared to stand in November 2016 and September 2017 before pulling out to endorse other candidates.
This time around he could face opposition from David Kurten, Peter Whittle, Suzanne Evans and Mr Batten.
Councillor Paul Brothwood, the leader of the Ukip group on Dudley Council, said Mr Bolton's departures was the 'bounce' the party desperately needed with local elections coming up in May.
"Bolton's reign was a nasty little glitch, but now we can move forward to the elections with a clear message and show all the good work our local councillors have done."
Six UKIP-held seats are up for grabs in Dudley this year.