‘Major national disrepute’: Ukip leadership row turns toxic

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage
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UKIP’S ONLY MP and its campaign chief are bringing the party into “major national disrepute” in the row over Nigel Farage’s leadership and should leave, the leader’s former chief of staff has said.

Raheem Kassam, who will leave the party at the end of the month, hit out at MP Douglas Carswell and Patrick O’Flynn, the economics spokesman who sparked an explosive row over Mr Farage’s leadership after accusing him of turning the party into a “personality cult”.

Mr O’Flynn’s comments have led to open warfare with several senior Ukip figures calling for Mr Farage to stand down, while others have lined up to defend him.

Mr Farage has dismissed the row as “people letting off steam” and insisted a leadership contest would be a “massive, massive mistake”.

Ukip donor and Yorkshire businessman Paul Sykes spoke out in favour of Mr Farage.

Mr Sykes, the Barnsley-born man behind the Meadowhall shopping centre, said: “I have had a lot of the media trying to contact me today to get involved in rubbishing Nigel Farage. This is what I would like to say about Nigel.

“Nigel Farage has been in Brussels fighting for Britain for 16 years, Nigel has led UKIP for 10 years, he has accomplished so much including winning outright the European Elections where 4.4 million voted for Ukip and at the recent elections where he achieved almost four million votes.

“This is because he communicates so well with ordinary people who are desperate for a voice among the Westminster elite. So without doubt as far as I’m concerned Nigel is the most experienced in the political field to be a powerful voice in the national referendum to hopefully achieve self government and control our own borders once again for this great nation of ours.”

Mr Kassam has backed his former boss and dragged Mr Carswell - seen as a potential replacement for Mr Farage - into the row, accusing the MP and Mr O’Flynn of acting on “purely selfish terms” and calling for the pair to leave.

Mr Kassam told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I feel a bit of responsibility in the sense that the characters who brought this up, namely Douglas Carswell and Patrick O’Flynn, are acting on purely selfish terms.

“They saw me as Nigel’s sort of body armour and that if they went after me that they would get to Nigel.

“These people are not acting in the best interests of the party, what they are doing is bringing the party into major national disrepute and I don’t think they have a place in the party.”

The row comes after Mr Farage was widely mocked for resigning from the leadership after failing to win the South Thanet seat he contested during the general election, only to be reinstated three days later at the urging of the party’s executive committee.

Mr Farage moved to defend his position on BBC Question Time last night, saying: “The election’s over, people are letting off steam, and we’ve seen one or two people fighting personal wars against each other.”

He added: “The level of support for me in the party is phenomenal and frankly, to go through a leadership contest at a time when Mr Cameron says he’s renegotiating our relationship with the European Union, would be a massive, massive mistake.”

The Ukip leader’s comments came after the party attempted to portray a rallying of support, producing a series of supportive statements from senior figures and donors.

But Mr O’Flynn defended his remarks while major donor Stuart Wheeler insisted Mr Farage should quit again to set in train a leadership election.

Mr Kassam admitted a leadership election could settle the issue.

He said: “”It might settle it, who knows? There are different people in the party who have different ideas of where they could take the party.

“I think Stuart Wheeler has a sort of very old-fashioned view of the party.

“Anybody who has any loyalty to the party will back the leader at this point and will see the party through to a 2020 campaign when we take lots of northern seats.”

In the background of the row over party leadership, Ukip is involved in a stand-off with Mr Carswell, who is resisting pressure from the party to claim £650,000 a year of taxpayers’ money to fund up to 15 additional members of staff.

The MP has insisted he will not claim the full amount but denied rumours that he was set to quit Ukip - a move which would block the party from claiming the money.

“I am 100% Ukip,” he said. “I am staunchly and proudly Ukip.”