"I don't suffer fools gladly," Lisa Duffy told IBTimes UK, as the Cambridgeshire councillor spoke over the phone about her plans to become Ukip leader. Duffy is a relative unknown outside of the Eurosceptic party's circles, but the mother of six has entered the race to succeed one of the most well-known politicians in Europe right now, Nigel Farage.
The 48-year-old admitted "there's never going to be a second Nigel" and argued "now is the time for something very different". Duffy, who serves as chief-of-staff to East of England MEP, certainly offers 'something different' to the Farage persona. The former Mayor of Ramsey boasts of her grassroots credentials and has a background in retail, working as a manager for supermarket chain Asda.
Duffy said she would draw on those skills to bring unity to the party – an issue which has dogged the party for years. To end the now infamous Ukip civil wars and skirmishes, Duffy will introduce a more consistent disciplinary procedures.
"I've managed teams of 250 people, I've managed volunteers and I understand people. But if you don't nip things in the bud and show a consistent level of consequence, then I'm afraid it's going to be all over the show," she said.
Duffy added: "We haven't had enough teams in place, we haven't been tough enough. I'm not afraid to manage, I'm a manager by trade and I will manage. I don't suffer fools gladly, but I'm an extremely fair person. I expect people to behave as I would behave and we would have very clear guidelines."
Moving away from Ukip's internal strife, Duffy refused to give a figure on how many seats the party can win at the next general election, which is expected in 2020 under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act. However, the former party director did give a flavour of the direction she wanted to take the party.
"The future isn't about being an MEP, the future is about someone who is grassroots, someone who is part of a councillor base and someone who is a team builder," Duff said. "Nigel's shoes marched Ukip and the UK out of the EU. The new leader has to have a new set of shoes.
"This person has to walk us into Westminster. It's about building the team, building the grassroots, building the councillors and making our policies fit for purpose for Westminster."
Ukip leadership candidates
- North West MEP Steven Woolfe and Ukip's migration spokesman
- West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge and Dudley councillor
- North East MEP Jonathan Arnott and former Ukip general secretary
- Ramsey councillor Lisa Duffy
- South East MEP Diane James
- Ukip NEC member Liz Jones
- Former Ukip PPC Philip Broughton
Duffy also has the support of party heavyweight Suzanne Evans, a former deputy chairman who was the architect behind Ukip's 2015 general election manifesto. Evans, who is suspended from the party, recently compared Farage's leadership to like running a "rugby club on tour".
The charge was a common one – beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking Farage had made Ukip too blokey. So what would Duffy, one of three women in leadership race, do to get more female supporters?
"It's very difficult to get women involved in politics. Women have very, very busy lives – as do men – but it does tend to be seen as a very blokey thing," she said. "But I think Ukip has the ability to attract females to it if we can stop some of the internal fighting, which I plan to do, actually make ourselves more attractive and give people to be part of Ukip."
"To be fair, there are a lot of women in Ukip, but most of them are behind the scenes working incredibly hard. I've never really put myself forward, other than being a councillor, I've always been the one pushing others to get elected. There are a lot of women in Ukip and now is the time to put their heads up and show what they're made of."
Which begged the question, why did Duffy decide to put her name into the hat? "An MEP said to me 'Lis', do you know what your problem is? You've never been elected to Europe, that's a weakness'," she said.
"I sat there and I thought you know what, it's not a weakness, it's a strength. I've spent the last 12 years building up the Ukip party, working at local levels, building myself up. I chose not to be an MEP because I didn't want to go over there, I didn't want to be part of that world."
Ukip leadership timetable
- Nominations close on 31 July
- Candidates will need 50 nominations and pay £5,000 to advance in race
- NEC vetting panel meets to discuss candidates on 2 August
- New leader announced on 15 September