The Alnwick branch of Ukip expressed its disappointment after North East MEP Jonathan Arnott withdrew from the party’s leadership contest.
A spokesman for the branch said: “Jonathan was the only candidate who represented real change and would have given the party the best chance to move on from its image of being only interested in the EU and immigration.
“Capable of original thought, Jonathan wanted to see the party become able to present policies on taxation, business and education that would have been attractive to a wider audience than we presently sometimes receive. It is a pity that we are now likely to lose that potential appeal.
“The entire election process has been less than well organised and the news that one of the candidates, the supposed favourite, Diane James, is refusing to attend the series of hustings taking place throughout the country suggests either a great level of complacency or calls into question whether or not her candidature is serious.
“The quality of the other candidates is not good; none of them are capable of making the party appeal to the millions of disaffected voters seeking a home for their votes.”
He continued: “The party is in danger of moving from the cusp of something special to becoming a footnote in history. We have to move on from being a pressure group to being a proper grown-up political party. There is no doubt that Ukip brought about the referendum following on from our successes at the European elections in 2014 and in gaining almost four million votes last year.
“But to progress we need to change. That means moving on from the Farage era to present ourselves as a new broad-based party that will gain votes from across the spectrum. Any regression to the past will result in failure.”
Mr Arnott had been garnering considerable support in the north of England, but, last week, the 35-year-old decided to stand aside having concluded that he would only come second in the national ballot.
“There is no prize for a silver medal in a leadership contest,” he said. “We are in the process of electing a new leader of the UK’s third political party. This should not be taken lightly, and the only reason for standing is for a candidate to believe that they can meaningfully aim to win the ballot.”
Mr Arnott said that his campaign has been about party unity and internal reform and ‘in a smaller field of candidates, there would have been a massive chance for a uniting, positive, compromise candidate to win’. “But that is not the race that we are in,” he added.
His belief is that Ukip must become a grown-up political party which is capable of taking on the political establishment on their own grounds.
“I want to see a UKIP which isn’t frightened to talk about the economy, a Ukip which will discuss the future of our NHS, a Ukip which champions excellence in education which goes far beyond grammar schools, a Ukip which has at its core a belief in people power and direct democracy, and a Ukip which will declare war on the crime which blights so many working-class communities. I want to see a Ukip which is more professional in taking the fight to our opposition in the target seats.”