Suzanne Evans, Ukip's former deputy chairman, has announced she is backing Ramsey councillor Lisa Duffy as the next leader of the party. Evans, who was once the bookies' favourite to take over from Nigel Farage as the leader of Ukip but is now currently suspended, admitted she had "given up hope" of becoming leader herself as a "handful of people have conspired to bar me from running".

During what she described as a "significant announcement" on the future of the party, Evans said it was important for Ukip to move away from its hard-right and "one-man band image" while endorsing Duffy, describing her as a candidate who will turn Ukip into a "seat-winning team".

Duffy, one of Ukip's longest-serving councillors, recently announced her intentions to run for the vacant Ukip leadership post after Nigel Farage quit in the wake of Britain voting to leave the EU. She joins other Ukip figures Jonathan Arnott, Bill Etheridge and Steven Woolfe in the race.

Announcing her decision at the time, Duffy said: "I understand everyday problems, I'm part of the community, I've been part of the backbone of the party, councillors are now the way forward for Ukip and I think I'm ready to deliver that with a team."

Evans was suspended by the party for six months in March for "constantly criticising, not just the leader, but the party [and] its direction", according to Farage.

The suspension arrived 11 months after Farage recommended Evans as acting leader until a leadership challenge was finalised after he quit as Ukip leader for the first time following the 2015 General election before performing a U-Turn days later. Farage stood down for a second time after Britain voted to leave the EU, describing how he had "done his bit".

Evans, author of Ukip's 2015 election manifesto, was suspended by the party just weeks after she had been sacked as deputy chairwoman and then welfare spokesperson. She will be barred from voting in the upcoming Ukip leadership election due to her suspension.

Suzanne Evans Ukip
Suzanne Evans was suspended by Ukip in March Ian Forsyth/Getty Images