Ukip MEP Bill Etheridge has quit the party's leadership race and thrown his support behind the "best man for the job", Paul Nuttall. Etheridge, who has represented West Midlands in the European Parliament since 2014, told IBTimes UK that other candidates should follow his lead.

"If they actually care about unity in our party and they care about Ukip being an effective force for the future, they should put aside their personal ambitions and unite behind the man who is clearly the most popular candidate and the man who is clearly the best man for the job."

Etheridge came third in Ukip's last leadership election behind fellow Ukip MEP Diane James and councillor Lisa Duffy.

The latest leadership race was sparked after James quit the top job after just 18 days in the role.

Ukip's migration spokesman Steven Woolfe was favourite for the leadership until he had an "altercation" with Ukip MEP Mike Hookem in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Woolfe was hospitalised after the incident and later quit the contest and the party, warning Ukip was in a "death spiral" without Eurosceptic firebrand Nigel Farage at the top.

Nuttall, a former deputy leader of the party, is the new favourite, with competition from the likes of former party deputy chairman Suzanne Evans and ex-Farage aide Raheem Kassam.

But with a Brexit vote at the EU referendum and Theresa May's pro-grammar schools stance, Ukip is faced with an identity crisis.

The latest opinion poll from Ipsos MORI, of more than 1,000 people between 14 and 17 October, put the party on just 6%, while Ukip came fifth in the Witney and West Oxfordshire by-election last week.

Ukip leadership candidates must submit their applications to the party by midday on 31 October.

The hopefuls will need 75 signatures from at least 10 branches to be eligible and need to pay a deposit of £5,000 ($6,122). Ballots will be sent to Ukip members "shortly after" 11 November.

Farage's successor will be in place by 28 November, according to Ukip's National Executive Committee.

Confirmed Ukip leadership candidates

  • Paul Nuttall (former deputy leader)
  • Suzanne Evans (former deputy chairman)
  • Raheem Kassam (former Nigel Farage aide)
  • Peter Whittle (London Assembly member)
  • David Kurten (London Assembly member)
  • Andrew Beadle (former parliamentary candidate)
  • John Rees-Evans (former parliamentary candidate)