Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said he will not stand in the party’s forthcoming leadership contest.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Farage did not rule out a return to “the front line” if political leaders did not deliver a “full and proper” Brexit.
But he said standing in the contest to replace Paul Nuttall would be “premature”.
Mr Nuttall stepped down as UKIP leader following the party’s poor showing in the general election.
UKIP failed to win a single seat in Parliament and its vote share slumped to 1.8%, down almost 11% on its 2015 result.
“It is already something of an ongoing joke about the number of times I have stood for the leadership and resigned,” Mr Farage wrote.
“To return now would be premature. But I’m still committed to the great Brexit battle and I will continue in my role as the leader of a group in the European Parliament, overseeing the Brexit process.”
He added: “Of course I want a full and proper Brexit, and if in 2019 we reach the end of the Article 50 process and a huge gap is left, whether that is not taking back our fishing rights, the continuation of free movement or still paying Brussels too much money, I would not hesitate in throwing myself back into the front line of domestic politics.”
But he warned that UKIP needed to “sort itself out and make the changes necessary to become a professional, modern political party”, or “another vehicle will then come along to replace it”.
Three times a leader
Mr Farage was first elected as leader of UKIP in 2006.
He stepped aside in 2009 to mount an unsuccessful challenge to Speaker John Bercow in his Buckingham seat in the 2010 general election.
UKIP polled just 3.1% nationally in 2010 and his successor at the helm, peer Lord Pearson of Rannoch, quit after the election. Mr Farage contested and won another leadership contest.
In 2015, he failed in another bid for a Commons seat in South Thanet and stepped down again – then surprised some in the party by announcing that he had changed his mind after being “persuaded” by “overwhelming” evidence from UKIP members that they wanted him to remain leader.
After the Leave victory in the 2016 EU referendum, Mr Farage again stood down as leader. This time his successor, Diane James, lasted just 18 days before resigning, with Mr Nuttall winning the subsequent leadership contest.
UKIP leaders have struggled in the past to convince voters that they have a coherent set of policies beyond leaving the EU and curbing immigration.
UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge, who ran for the leadership last year, said: “I am disappointed Nigel is not standing but it means it is more important than ever to have a candidate on the ballot paper with fresh ideas for the party.
“The last three elections have been a disaster for UKIP and what we must not have is someone who was at the centre of that mess to become the new leader.”