File photo dated 25/04/16 of Peter Whittle who has pulled out of the race as a contender to replace Nigel Farage as the leader of Ukip. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday November 4, 2016. Mr Whittle declared he was withdrawing his candidacy and offering his support to frontrunner Paul Nuttall. See PA story POLITICS Ukip. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

One of the contenders to replace Nigel Farage as leader of Ukip has pulled out of the race.

London Assembly member Peter Whittle declared he was withdrawing his candidacy and offering his support to frontrunner Paul Nuttall.

His decision leaves three runners in the contest – former deputy leader Mr Nuttall, former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans, and Wales-based ex-soldier John Rees-Evans.

Mr Whittle said he had become convinced that North West England MEP Mr Nuttall, who has also served as the party’s chairman and leads its delegation in the European Parliament, made him “the person who is best placed to take us forward”.

Ukip was forced to stage its second leadership contest in a matter of months when previous victor Diane James stepped down in October after just 18 days in charge.

Her decision left Mr Farage – who had declared his intention to step down after the EU referendum in June – back at the helm for a fourth stint at the helm.

The new leader, elected by postal ballot of Ukip members, will be announced on November 28.

Mr Whittle’s withdrawal came after Mr Rees-Evans stormed out of a hustings debate with the other three contenders in Newport, South Wales.

Mr Rees-Evans accused the party of wanting a “nice decorous coronation” but said he was not giving up his challenge and would be touring the country to win support for his plan for an internet-based system of internal democracy under which members would determine policy.

Mr Whittle was elected to the London Assembly in May last year and leads the Ukip group at City Hall. He was Ukip’s candidate for London Mayor in this year’s election, coming in fifth place with 94,000 votes. He won headlines with his demand for schools to fly the Union flag and put up pictures of the Queen.

In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Mr Whittle said: “In the month since I declared my intention to stand for the leadership of Ukip, I have been hugely encouraged by the goodwill, desire for unity and sheer commitment of our members up and down the country.

“We have been through a difficult few weeks. We have been here before, but have gone on to survive and prosper. We will do so again. I am convinced that, having had the historical success of the referendum, our party is on the threshold of a new era.

“Furthermore, yesterday’s High Court ruling also suggests that the battle to ensure that the Leave vote in the referendum is respected is far from over and Ukip is needed more than ever.

“To meet the new challenges which the future holds, Ukip needs a leader who knows the party inside out and who can command the loyalty of members across the board.

“So, after a great deal of thought, I have decided to withdraw from the leadership contest and recommend wholeheartedly that members vote for Paul Nuttall.

“I would like to thank those members and supporters who planned to support me, but I have become convinced that the sheer breadth of Paul’s political experience, his dedication to the values of the party and the obvious affection in which he is held by members make him the person who is best placed to take us forward.”

Andrew Mann
After 34 years working in numerous operational and communications disciplines for three FTSE companies (Yorkshire Electricity; Meggitt and BAE Systems), at over a dozen locations, on 24 November 2016, I became the inaugural editor of Business Lancashire.Business Lancashire is a good news, Lancashire focused, business website and daily newsletter. It is a partnership between The Samuel James Group and the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.Over the years, I have written hundreds of press releases, features for trade magazines, copy for websites and brochures, edited in-house magazines and newsletters, as well as presenting a radio programme on Chorley FM. This experience has given me the ideal background for editing Business Lancashire.