Katy Balls

Paul Nuttall’s election is bad news for Labour

Paul Nuttall's election is bad news for Labour
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Today Paul Nuttall has been appointed Ukip leader, winning over 62 pc of the vote. His election marks a new chapter for the party, after months of in-fighting and confusion since the Brexit vote. A popular figure in the party, many had hoped he would run in the first leadership election, that Diane James went on to win -- before quitting after just 18 days. Better late than never, Nuttall now has a good chance of uniting the party behind him.

In his acceptance speech, Nuttall wasted no time in setting out his vision for Ukip post-Brexit. He said he hoped 'to replace the Labour party and make Ukip the patriotic voice of working people'. Behind closed doors, the Tories are breathing a collective sigh of relief. As one said to me, 'that speech was entirely aimed at Labour. We will take Labour seats in the South and Ukip will attack in the North'.

A skilful media performer, Nuttall's working-class roots should help the Scouser give Labour a run for their money in their traditional heartlands. For many, Corbyn's immigration-loving metropolitan party bears little resemblance to the party they once voted for. As Nuttall prepares to win over these disillusioned voters, Labour are clearly worried. They issued their first attack on Nuttall within minutes of his election (very speedy when compared with their usual response time). In a press release, Jon Trickett said there is only one thing to know about the new Ukip leader and that's that he wants privatisation in the NHS. However, while Nuttall spoke out in favour of privatisation back in 2014, much has changed since then. There was little mention of it in his leadership campaign and the posts on his website most strongly advocating this have since been deleted.

While Nuttall will no doubt come under scrutiny over his previous comments, NHS privatisation is unlikely to ever be a Ukip pledge. In the 2015 manifesto, the party promised to spend £12 billion more on the NHS by 2020 in order to guarantee it stayed free at the point of delivery for UK citizens. It follows that Labour will need to re-connect with their traditional supporters if they are to stave off the threat from Ukip. This will have to involve coming up with a coherent party position on Brexit — something they have so far been unable to do.