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Leaderless UKIP not in ‘death spiral’, party insists

UK & Europe

Leaderless UKIP not in ‘death spiral’, party insists

In happier times: Steven Woolfe.

[European Parliament/Flickr]

The UK Independence Party was thrown into further turmoil on Monday (17 October) with the resignation from the party of its favourite for the leadership, Steven Woolfe, who branded the party “ungovernable” without Nigel Farage.

Woolfe’s decision to quit UKIP followed him being hospitalised earlier in October after an altercation at the European Parliament in which he claimed he was hit by a fellow party politician.

The 49-year-old on Monday said since the Strasbourg incident he has spent time considering his personal and political future.

“It is with deep sorrow and regret that I am aborting my leadership campaign and announcing my resignation from UKIP with immediate effect.

“I believe that a strong UKIP would hold this government’s feet to the fire and make sure it delivers a clean Brexit.

“However, I have come to the conclusion that UKIP is ungovernable without Nigel Farage leading it and the referendum cause to unite it,” Woolfe said in a statement published online.

He accused UKIP of being “riddled with infighting, proxy wars between rival camps” and said he intended to sit in the European Parliament as an independent MEP.

Following the announcement Peter Whittle, UKIP’s culture spokesman, called for unity and promised the party would begin 2017 “renewed” following a fresh leadership campaign.

“We in @UKIP are not in a ‘death spiral.’ We are the party of the future and we will be the opposition in time,” he asserted on Twitter.

Nominations for the party’s new leader opened on Monday with an October 31 deadline for submissions. The winner will be announced on November 28.

Farage is currently serving as UKIP’s acting leader and has said he will not seek re-election.

UKIP in crisis

The loss of Woolfe marks a significant blow for UKIP, which has lacked direction since achieving its aim of seeing Britain exit the European Union.

Nigel Farage resigned as leader following the June 23 referendum which saw the UK vote to leave the bloc, saying he had achieved his lifelong ambition.

Farage on UKIP’s future: After Brexit, who cares?

Nigel Farage stated that UKIP’s role after the UK referendum on Europe was to ensure there was “no backsliding or betrayal” on the vote to Leave. But he refused to say if he would dissolve his party, born as a single issue campaign, after Britain quits the EU.

Woolfe, who had served as UKIP’s migration and financial affairs spokesman, was named as Farage’s likely successor. But he missed out on the leadership battle after submitting his nomination papers 17 minutes after the deadline, sparking a row within the party.

Fellow MEP Diane James was elected UKIP leader in September, promising to build on the party’s success and “outwit our opponents”.

But James resigned just 18 days later, saying she did not have sufficient authority or backing of the party.

Woolfe was seen as a key contender to fill the vacuum left by her swift departure and announced he would be throwing his hat in for the imminent leadership campaign.

But his position became uncertain just two days later when he collapsed in the European Parliament, following the altercation after Woolfe reportedly admitted he had considered joining the ruling Conservative Party.

In his resignation letter Woolfe again accused UKIP MEP Mike Hookem of hitting him and said he has made a police complaint. Hookem has denied hitting Woolfe and investigations are underway by UKIP and parliamentary authorities.

Along with James’ resignation, the European Parliament incident plunged the party into a crisis which has been confounded by Woolfe quitting.

The anti-EU party won 12.6% of the vote in the 2015 election and gained an international platform this year with its role in securing the leave vote in the referendum.

But UKIP has so far failed to capitalise on its Brexit success and outline a clear future for the party.