The race for the UKIP leadership is officially on. Nigel Farage has not taken his colleague Nikki Sinclaire's request to put party before ego and continue as leader, so the party faces a leadership contest at a time when it is desperately searching the coffers for £750,000 to pay off its legal costs and to pay back its illegal donations, and just six months before a general election.
The five candidates are a deeply uninspiring bunch and precious few Britons will have heard of any of them. Farage may have had an ego the size of Scotland, but he was a slick and skilled media performer and always ensured that the ukip punched above their weight on programmes like the BBC's Question Time.
There will be a handful of decidedly low-key hustings events over the next three weeks, with ballot papers to be returned by November 26th.
The candidates are as follows:
Gerard Batten MEP
Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Mike Nattrass MEP
Nikki Sinclaire MEP
Of these, Alan Wood is a UKIP councillor in Wiltshire, and Lord Pearson is a loony former Tory peer who is close mates of Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders and has called for Ukip to make "the threat of radical Islam the major focus" of its election strategy. Don't forget though that the ukip is a "non-racist party". Yeah, right.
So to the MEPs who are standing. Batten and Mike Nattrass are two of the least impressive members of UKIPs MEP delegation. In 2008, Batten was UKIPs candidate to be Mayor of London, finishing 6th, and managing a paltry 2% of the vote. He even finished behind the independent Christian Alliance candidate.
Nattrass, meanwhile, is not only a virtual unknown outside ukip circles, but also belies ukip's attempts to describe itself as a "non-racist" libertarian party.
Before joining ukip, Nattrass was a member of the New Britain Party, a party which had close and longstanding links to 'Rhodesian' (sic) organisations promoting racial separatism and South African apartheid such as the Springbok and Empire Loyalist Clubs, was highly anti-immigration and campaigned for the return of capital punishment. New Britain was described as an "avowedly racist party" by The Observer newspaper in May 2001. Nattrass stood as the New Britain Party candidate in the 1994 Dudley by-election, winning a spectacular 146 votes. With this past, it is difficult to see how ukip supporters could justify having Mike Nattrass as leader while still maintaining their mantra as a "non-racist" party.
What is perhaps most significant are the candidates who are not standing. UKIPwatch is surprised that neither party chairman Paul Nuttall or David Bannerman are standing, both of whom have excellent campaigning records and are popular within the party ranks.
All of which leaves Nikki Sinclaire, a newly elected MEP. Sinclaire is the first openly gay Ukip parliamentarian and has rapidly established herself as one of the more politically astute and media-savvy Ukip MEPs. Despite her inexperience, if Ukip members have any sense then she should win. The other parties will, if they are interested enough to follow the leadership contest of a party as tiny as the Ukip, be hoping that Nattrass, Wood or Pearson claims the prize.