UKIP Chooses Paul Nuttall to Replace Nigel Farage as Leader


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Paul Nuttall, left, the new leader of the U.K. Independence Party, with Nigel Farage, the party’s acting leader, in London on Monday.

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Toby Melville/Reuters

LONDON — The spectacle surrounding the U.K. Independence Party continued on Monday, as the party named Paul Nuttall as its leader after the previous one resigned last month after less than three weeks in charge, citing internal squabbles and rivalries.

The announcement on Monday that Mr. Nuttall would lead the right-wing, anti-immigration party would seem to allow the acting leader, Nigel Farage, a polarizing figure who has made much of his new friendship with President-elect Donald J. Trump, to move to the United States, as some of his friends have suggested he might do.

In October, one leadership candidate, Steven Woolfe, ended up in the hospital after a fight with another party member at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Mr. Woolfe then said he would quit UKIP and rejoin the Conservative Party, claiming that UKIP was “in a death spiral” and was “ungovernable” without Mr. Farage. Shortly afterward, Diane James, who was elected party leader in September, quit after 18 days, a casualty of the continuing divisions.

It will be up to Mr. Nuttall, 39, the party’s former chairman and leader of its delegation in the European Parliament, to try to drag the party back from what he called “the edge of a political cliff” last month.

To do that, Mr. Nuttall, a former history teacher, will also have to pacify Arron Banks, the British businessman who is UKIP’s main source of funds. Mr. Banks has raised the possibility of starting a new party.

The main problem that UKIP faces is that it had one goal: to secure and win a referendum on British membership in the European Union. Having done so in spectacular fashion in June — British voters opted to leave the union, in line with UKIP’s view — it is unclear what the party stands for now.

But its promotion of English nationalism, its stance against Brussels and its calls for stricter control of immigration made it popular among many disaffected Labour Party voters, especially in the north and on the southeast coast of Britain.

Although the party won only one seat in the last parliamentary elections, in May, it received 12.6 percent of the popular vote, finishing third after the Conservatives and Labour.

Mr. Nuttall, who has represented northwest England in the European Parliament since 2009, has said that his party will “replace the Labour Party in the next five years and become the patriotic party of the working people.”

The idea is not wholly fanciful. The Labour Party is now led by an old-fashioned leftist, Jeremy Corbyn, who is not considered a credible option for prime minister by much of the country and who has alienated many of the blue-collar workers who once formed Labour’s backbone.

“There are very few Labour M. P.s, if any, who would say that they are in what’s traditionally referred to as safe seats,” Dan Jarvis, a Labour lawmaker who is considered a possible party leader, told The Times of London. “It is clear to me that the UKIP fox is in the Labour henhouse, and we have to make a decision about what we want to do about that fox.”

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