An­ar­chy in the UKIP as par­lia­men­tar­i­ans scuf­fle

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

to where it is to­day, but it is clear that we our­selves, are at break­ing point,” said busi­ness­man Ar­ron Banks, the pop­ulist party’s most prom­i­nent donor.

The anti-EU UKIP, which is no stranger to in­fight­ing, has be­come a po­lit­i­cal force in Bri­tain in re­cent years, rid­ing on a surge of eu­roscep­ti­cism and con­cerns about im­mi­gra­tion.

It has 22 MEPs, two more than ei­ther Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s rul­ing Con­ser­va­tives or the main Labour op­po­si­tion, and took al­most four mil­lion votes in the 2015 na­tional elec­tion.

How­ever, since it achieved its main goal help­ing force June’s ref­er­en­dum and se­cur­ing Brexit, its hopes of be­com­ing the main op­po­si­tion have been se­verely dented by in­ter­nal di­vi­sions.

Its well-known, charis­matic leader Nigel Farage an­nounced he would step down af­ter the ref­er­en­dum but his elected suc­ces­sor Diane James quit this week af­ter just 18 days say­ing she lacked suf­fi­cient au­thor­ity.

Woolfe then an­gered some in his party when he said he would stand for the lead­er­ship but then also ad­mit­ted he had con­sid­ered de­fect­ing to the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tives.

Mat­ters came to a head at the meet­ing on MEPs to dis­cuss these com­ments, lead­ing to a clash be­tween de­fence spokesman Mike Hookem, 62, and Woolfe, 49.

Hookem de­nied he had thrown any punches, but said there had been a scuf­fle af­ter Woolfe had ap­proached to at­tack him. They had wres­tled and Woolfe had fallen back but had got straight up.

“Steven has this morn­ing reached out the hand of friend­ship to Mr Hookem and has re­alised that things did go too far in the meet­ing,” UKIP MEP Nathan Gill said yes­ter­day af­ter vis­it­ing Woolfe who will be held in hos­pi­tal for an­other 48 hours as a pre­cau­tion.

There will be no po­lice ac­tion but UKIP will hold an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment is to launch a dis­ci­plinary in­quiry.

Back in Bri­tain, pub­lic re­crim­i­na­tions amongst party fig­ures came to the fore while news­pa­per front pages fea­tured a pic­ture of an un­con­scious Woolfe sprawled face down in the Euro­pean par­lia­ment build­ing.

“UKIP out for the count,” said the Daily Mail’s head­line.

Neil Hamil­ton, UKIP’s leader in the Welsh as­sem­bly, said the po­lice should have been in­volved, call­ing the in­ci­dent “ab­so­lutely ap­palling”.

Mean­while party donor Banks de­nounced Hamil­ton on Twit­ter as “an odi­ous toad”, said he would no longer back UKIP if Hamil­ton and Dou­glas Car­swell, UKIP’s only rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the West­min­ster par­lia­ment, re­mained in the party and Woolfe was not al­lowed to run for leader.

De­spite the tur­moil, se­nior fig­ures in the party, which has in the past seen claims of racism, misog­yny and ho­mo­pho­bia against its mem­bers, be­lieve it can shrug this off.

“As we’ve dis­cov­ered many times with UKIP, we are a bit Te­flon so things get thrown at us and it seems to bounce off,” Gill said. – Reuters

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