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UKIP's first female leader quits after just 18 days

Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP | This file photo taken on September 16, 2016 shows Diane James then mew leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), addressing at the UKIP Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, England

Diane James resigned as the leader of the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party (UKIP) on Tuesday, citing personal and professional reasons, after 18 days in the role.

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James quit as UKIP chief citing "personal and professional" reasons, saying she did not have the full support of fellow MEPs or party officers to implement the changes she promised during the leadership campaign.

At the news of James's resignation, UKIP's only MP, Douglas Carswell, said: "I'm sad and surprised. I just hope she's alright".

James's resignation prompted speculation that Nigel Farage - UKIP's leader from 2006-2009 and 2010-2016 - might return to lead the party for a third time.

However, he told the Press Association: "I'm not coming back, I'm retired".

Although less outspoken than her charismatic predecessor Farage, who resigned in July after achieving his political dream of spearheading Britain's departure from the European Union, James has still contributed to the controversy that often follows the anti-immigration party.

She apologised after warning of "crime associated with Romanians" while campaigning unsuccessfully to become an MP, and raised eyebrows after praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I admire him from the point of view that he's standing up for his country," said James, who was her party's justice and home affairs spokeswoman. "He's very nationalist. I do admire him. He is a very strong leader."

From Tory to UKIP

Explaining her decision to move to UKIP, she told the regional Southern Daily Echo newspaper that she had been a long-time Conservative supporter until becoming "totally disillusioned" with its leadership in the 2000s.

Her first active foray into politics came in 2006, when she successfully ran as an independent in a local council by-election in Surrey. She subsequently lost her seat, but was elected on a UKIP ticket to the European Parliament in 2014.

Her name was frequently mentioned as a potential leader when Farage announced his returement, and became the hot favourite when her main rival, Steven Woolfe, was ruled out of the race after failing to submit his application in time.

Before her resignation James had previously said she hoped to lead UKIP in becoming "the UK's official opposition party after the next election".

Despite facing internal splits over the direction of the party, James claimed she was up for the challenge during a recent article in the FT.

"UKIP needs a transparent, ambitious, motivated leader to achieve this, one who can make the party a formidable winning machine," she wrote. "I am that woman."

James studied business studies and tourism with languages at university, becoming fluent in French and German. Her skills helped her land a job with a German pharmaceutical company, and from there she set up a consultancy business to help companies market their products in international healthcare systems.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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