|* Paul Waugh|
Nigel Farage has a speech at 10am on the future of UKIP (yes, it's Independence Day). But one big question will be whether he gives any nod or wink that he is backing Andrea Leadsom. Arron Banks, Farage’s millionaire backer, certainly has thrown the full weight of his leave.eu campaign behind the energy minister.
And lots of Kippers like Leadsom for her ‘get on with it’ approach, particularly her pledge on Marr yesterday to trigger Article 50 as soon as she becomes PM i.e. September. Gove’s timetable on Friday was merely ‘no later than the end of the calendar year’, but May says 2017 at the earliest.
Plenty of Tories also like Banks’ frank admission that Leadsom would be bad news for UKIP’s own interests, as she could effectively remove any reason for UKIP to exist. In fact, UKIP will continue to act as more of a threat in Labour areas, where there is a demand for concrete action on migrants who undercut wages and take jobs. Still, the Govers - and Maybelievers - are pointing to Leadsom saying as recently as 2013 that Brexit would be a ‘disaster’ for the economy.
Leadsom came across well on Marr yesterday, refreshingly honest and normal when asked questions. “She sounded like what she is, a grown up,” one Tory MP told me. When asked by Marr if she’d consider Farage as a part of her negotiating team for Brexit, she didn’t do what most politicians would have done and ruled it out straight away, on the grounds that Farage is not an MP never mind a member of the Government. Instead she said: “I don’t want to get into who would do what”.
The Tory-Kipper alliance that grew on the ground (Vote Leave staffers were 60-40 Con-UKIP) is still strong and maybe she wants to keep it going. Asked if UKIP and the Tories were now touching fingers, Leadsom said she was “delighted by the wide range of support”. The Times has a corking quote from David Jones, a May backer: “There is no doubt that elements of Ukip are intending to try to steal a Conservative leadership election”.
What won’t help May among the Eurosceps is the suggestion from backer Philip Hammond that there has to be some sort of ‘trade off’ between freedom of movement and single market access.
* Paul Waugh Is The Executive Editor, HuffPost, UK.