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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
UKIP leadership contest heats up
Nigel Farage
Mr Farage is seen as favourite to win the contest
The four contenders in the race to be the next leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) are preparing to make their final pitches to party members.

Ballot papers will be sent out next week in the contest triggered by Roger Knapman's decision to stand down.

The final hustings took place in London on Saturday and Exeter on Sunday.

The four contenders are: party chairman David Campbell Bannerman, Nigel Farage MEP, David Noakes and Richard Suchorzewski, chairman of UKIP Wales.

Mr Farage, leader of UKIP's MEPs in Brussels, is the best known of the four and is seen as the favourite.

But he faces strong competition from Mr Campbell Bannerman, who defected from the Tories four years ago.

EU withdrawal

Richard Suchorzewski, another Tory defector, has also mounted a vigorous campaign and - despite being a UKIP member for just two years - claims to have the most endorsements from party members.

David Noakes is seen as the dark horse of the contest - but his message that the EU is a "police state" could find favour with grass roots members.

Completed ballot papers must be returned to party headquarters by 1700 BST on 7 September.

The count will take place over the following few days, with the result to be announced on 12 September.

All four leadership candidates will be taking part in BBC Radio 4's The Westminster Hour at 2200BST on Sunday.

UKIP's best known policy is a pledge to withdraw the UK from the European Union if it is elected to power.

It has never had anyone elected to the House of Commons, but had 12 Euro MPs elected when it finished third in the last European Parliament elections, with 16% of all votes.

The party did not do as well as it had hoped at last year's election, losing its deposit in more than 450 seats, but it has begun to establish itself as a force in Westminster by-elections, coming third in two recent contests.

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