UKIP showed fresh faces during its leadership hustings in Clacton.

Four of the five candidates turned up to the Town Hall for the hustings watched by around 70 party members from across Ukip’s Eastern Region, including Tendring district councillors and Ukip’s only MP, Clacton’s Douglas Carswell.

Current frontrunner Diane James MEP did not attend this or other hustings, preferring her own events, leaving the evening open to Bill Etheridge MEP from the West Midlands, London lawyer Liz Jones, former Carswell campaign manager Lisa Duffy from Cambridgeshire, and Philip Broughton from Teesside.

Candidates pledged support for the NHS, a strong defence, grammar schools and law and order. They wanted lower migration, a lower foreign aid budget and demanded Brexit. All rejected suggestions UKIP change its name.

Lisa Duffy spoke of her work for the party and said she would “keep the pressure” on the Tories to deliver Brexit. She would “make Ukip the party of the NHS.” She wanted “one law for all” and said it was “not wrong to ban sharia law.” She would also “stand up to political correctness.”

Liz Jones said Ukip was “a broad church and we welcome anyone.” She also wanted to be “the continuity candidate.” She told members she would use her social connections to raise party funds.

Philip Broughton wanted smaller government, lower taxes, a free-market economy, to protect the NHS and reverse cuts to police and defence staffing numbers. Ukip should change its tone and be optimistic to broaden its appeal.

The “Northern working class lad who knows struggle” also earned much applause with a rallying call to end the “Blairite” policies of both Labour and the Conservatives.

Bill Etheridge cited the “liberal economic ideas” of Douglas Carswell for inspiring him to join the Conservatives, then Ukip. He wanted Ukip to “be radical, challenge the establishment and speak for the people”.

He earned further applause for wanting to privatise the BBC to end “shoddy left-wing propaganda being pumped into our living rooms every night.” His plea to scrap HS2 also won applause. He told party members he would be “their friend and leader.”

Ukip national chairman Paul Oakden, who chaired the hustings in Clacton Town Hall, said Ukip had “changed British history and proved if united, it could do anything.”

“The narrative the party is pulling itself to pieces is no way accurate. We are a unified party that’s going to go on and do great things,” he concluded the meeting.