My time in UKIP has been an incredible journey – never easy but incredibly rewarding. When my partner Pete who was forming a new branch of UKIP asked me to come along and take the minutes I said I’ll give you an hour – that was 12 years ago!

I have been a continuous and stalwart member of UKIP for all this time, I stand here before you to tell you why I believe I’m the right person to be the next leader of the party I am so proud to be a member of. I’ve done just about every other job! I was appointed as the National Co-ordinator for Young Independence in 2007. We started off with three members and when I handed it over we’d upped that to a thousand. Many of them have gone on to become smart, motivated candidates and activists of huge benefit to our party.

I’ve served on our National Executive Committee, and was appointed UKIP’s first Party Director by former leader Lord Pearson. What an amazing five years I’ve had serving under both him and Nigel Farage, and working with both Paul Nuttall and Steve Crowther as Chairmen. Together we built the Head Office team; worked with the Regional Organisers and Regional Chairman to improve communications; give electoral guidance; and start to turn the party into a fighting force to be reckoned with.

I’ve played a key part in the success of UKIP in Local Government, working alongside Cllr Pete Reeve, Cllr Chris Adams and the Councillors’ Association and I was over the moon when I became the first UKIP Mayor in Ramsey.

When I took on the role of Party Director we had seven Councillors. When I stepped down we had over 500, of which I’m one. I was elected as a District Councillor in 2012, and I’ve just been re-elected, and believe me, there’s no better job for getting to know how the people of this country think and what they want from their politicians; and there’s a huge satisfaction in being able to get things done for your constituents; to overturn an injustice; or to use your influence to get vital services provided to individuals and families in need.

The first Westminster by-election I ran for UKIP was in Barnsley in 2011. I remember it wasn’t exactly pleasant. We were laughed at, ridiculed, spat on, chased down the street. But what kept me going was our members that gave their last £3 to the campaign because they knew it would make a difference. They turned up regardless of the weather, knowing the next leaflet they put out might be the one that tipped the election. Rain or shine, the canvassers, the guys who came along and put up the garden boards or drove the cars: everyone has a part to play. And it paid off. We got our first 2nd place result.

My strength in UKIP’s by-elections has been finding and nurturing the candidates and the voluntary teams. I’ve always been clear that UKIP’s like a jigsaw and everyone’s a piece in that jigsaw. I want to be very clear today – UKIPs future success lies in Teamwork.

Never has it been more important that our party focuses on the grassroots. This is where all the important hard work is achieved. I know our members are crying out for encouragement, for training, for recognition. We are a grown-up party now. We have huge responsibilities to the electorate, who want to see us take control of councils and win seats at Westminster.

Listening to voters while out canvassing and holding my weekly Councillor surgeries, it’s clear to me that it’s our grassroots base we need to value and cherish. I intend to focus our national resources on building up our local government base, as our launch pad into Westminster.

It’s time to grow on our electoral success, give UKIP councillors the opportunity to become the backbone of our Party, build the grassroots and garner support from the 13 million people who voted Leave in the European referendum, but who didn’t vote UKIP in the General Election.

Let’s give them a good reason to vote for us next time. I want to continue to deliver the common-sense, hard-hitting, fair policies set in train by our fully-costed 2015 general election manifesto that was so well received both within and outside the party. I want to put some wheels under and build on it.

Under my leadership we’ll continue to insist free movement of people from EU nations ends, and push for an Australian-style points based immigration system that treats migrants from across the world fairly and equitably. UKIP forced the immigration issue to be heard: now we need to start tackling taboo subjects like integration. I have launched two visions: one on the vision for UKIP to become ‘The Party of the NHS and invest £1billion in mental health services, and a positive vision for British Islam challenging the Muslim community on integration, equality, opportunity and fairness.

I want UKIP to continue to be tough on Law and Order, and no one should be in any doubt that UKIP champions the NHS. I am determined to see our NHS protected but invested in so it’s fit for purpose for you, your children and grandchildren.

Ultimately, I want to lead a UKIP that never forgets it represents Real People, understands Real Lives and is never afraid of pushing for Real, positive Change.

I also want to pay tribute to Nigel Farage.

Nigel was the right man at the right time for our Party and for our country. We have been extremely lucky to have had Nigel Farage leading the charge, because it’s pretty clear that without him and the hard work of dedicated UKIP members and supporters across the country the referendum would never have taken place, and it certainly wouldn’t have been won.

June 23rd will become Britain’s Independence Day.

I’ve learnt so much working for Nigel. He and his fellow MEPs, our MEPs, now have a duty to keep up the pressure; make sure Leave means Leave; and get the right Brexit deal for our country.

It’s important though that our next Party Leader isn’t seen as ‘Nigel-Light.’ I’m a team player and – I also think I look a little bit different?!

I’m confident I can appeal to that wider audience we need to win large numbers of Council and Westminster seats. I’m also confident I can bring UKIP home from Brussels. Our future, our strength, no longer lies in the European parliament but right here. And neither is our future, our strength any longer in driving home the message about the failings of the EU. It is based in solid, honest community based work right here.

This may surprise you, but the reason I am not an MEP is because I didn’t want to be one. I chose not to put my name forward on principle. I believe this is a principle shared by many of our members and supporters. I made the choice to focus my efforts on our domestic agenda and building up UKIP’s credibility here at home in the UK. And that is one of the main reasons why I believe I am the right person to become the next leader of UKIP, because that is what ALL of us need to do now.

All too often our members, branches, local candidates and activists have been ignored and not been given the support and resources they deserve. I intend to change that. It’s their hard work that’s turned UKIP into a recognised household name. Some have suggested we need a radical rebrand; new logo; a new name. I strongly disagree. People now recognise the name UKIP, why would we change all that now and risk what we’ve built up?

I’ve worked with so many tremendous, hardworking, passionate people, members and Councillors who have given their heart and soul to make UKIP the success it is today. I can’t imagine being known as anything other than Lisa Duffy – UKIP, and under my leadership, UKIP will stay UKIP. UKIP is more relevant now than it’s ever been.

Our immediate job is to hold Theresa May’s government to account, to ensure that Brexit is delivered positively and 100% in full. No half measures. Our job is to keep shaking up Westminster. If article 50 isn’t invoked soon we must call to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and Leave Now.

I want to thank the Grassroots members and my fellow UKIP Councillors for their support. You are the future of UKIP. The NEC must stay, it is your grass-roots voice. Yes it needs regional representation, yes it needs more transparency, I would like you to have the opportunity to watch them in session like a council. I would like constitutional change and have the grass-roots members elect the Party Chairman.

I hope you will vote for me to become the next leader of UKIP. I believe I am the right person for the job. I will make a difference.

Nigel Farage’s shoes have marched the People’s Army out of the European Union. I have a different pair of shoes; a pair of shoes that will walk the People’s Army into Westminster.

Please visit my website www.lisa4leader.info or twitter @lisa_4_leader

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