Ukip MEP Diane James has overtaken former front runner Steven Woolfe to become the favourite to succeed Nigel Farage as the party's next leader. Bookmaker Ladbrokes shortened its odds for James, who has represented the South East of England in the European Parliament since 2014, after Woolfe's campaign was hit by a series of setbacks.
The former barrister was forced to deny reports that he allowed his Ukip membership to lapse, making him ineligible for leadership contest since the party requires candidates to be a member for at least two consecutive years.
Woolfe also submitted his leadership application late due to a "technical problem" and The Huffington Post reported that he could have broken electoral rules in 2012 when he ran to become Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner.
Woolfe failed to declare a 2002 conviction for being drunk in charge of a scooter, which saw him fined £350 ($465) and receive a year-long disqualification from driving.
"I made a foolish mistake 14 years ago which I regret. As the years went on I forgot about the conviction as I got on with my life," he told the Huffington Post.
"The conviction was a spent conviction in November 2012 and not in my mind when I stood for Police and Crime Commissioner in Greater Manchester. It was also a spent conviction when I stood for the European Elections in 2014 and General Election in 2015."
Woolfe, who is a familiar face in the UK media thanks to his role as Ukip's migration spokesman, has now moved to second favourite, according to Ladbrokes. The bookmaker is offering 5/4 on James, 6/4 on Woolfe and 7/1 on Cambridgeshire councillor Lisa Duffy.
A three member strong vetting panel from Ukip's National Executive Committee met yesterday (2 August) to determine the eligibility of the seven candidates that submitted their nomination papers and paid a deposit of £5,000.
A Ukip spokesman said the party aims to announce the full and final list of candidate at 12pm BST today. The winner of the contest will be announced on 15 September.