Ukip today announced any potential successor to Nigel Farage must have been a party member for at least five years – ruling out some of its most high-profile figures including Shrewsbury-based former deputy chairman Suzanne Evans.
Party members were told of the rule change today after a meeting of Ukip’s NEC, who also confirmed any potential leadership challenger would have to stump up a deposit of £5,000.
The closing date for nominations is July 31, and after a vote among members the result will be known on September 15.
Clacton MP Douglas Carswell, party donor Arron Banks and Welsh Assembly member Mark Reckless are all unable to stand for Ukip leader under the rules, as is the currently suspended Ms Evans.
She expressed her anger at the NEC’s decision – and compared the committee to the EU.
"I cannot imagine a decision more ridiculous and more likely to bring Ukip into disrepute," she said.
"It means people such as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, our current and former MPs, and the latter also a Welsh AM, cannot stand, despite the huge dedication they have shown to the party and their current elected positions.
"I hope the new leader will allow members to attend NEC meetings unless confidential information is being discussed, publish the minutes, and set up a ‘right of recall’ so NEC members are accountable to members.
"At the moment, frankly, by operating in secret, changing the rules as it goes along, and being totally unaccountable, it is behaving like the EU."
MEPs Steven Woolfe and Diane James are eligible to take part in a leadership bid, as is former Tory MP Neil Hamilton - although he has already ruled himself out.
Farage announced he was standing down as Ukip leader on Monday July 4 after helping the Brexit campaign win the EU Referendum.Subscribe to our Newsletter