Steven Woolfe, the favourite to take over from Nigel Farage as leader of the UK Independence Party, was rushed to hospital today (6 October), after an alleged fight with fellow UKIP MEPs in the European Parliament.
Farage said Woolfe was in a “serious condition” following the altercation soon afterwards. But, as this piece was published it emerged he was sitting up in hospital and seemed to be fine. He will be kept overnight in hospital for bloodtests.
Woolfe was at a meeting of UKIP MEPs at 10AM at the European Parliament in Strasbourg when an argument broke out. The party is looking to replace Diane James as leader, who stepped down after just 18 days in charge.
The row was over Woolfe’s recent admission he had held talks with the Conservative Party over defecting to the Tories, sources said.
One MEP, reportedly Mike Hookem, called Woolfe a “joke”. Woolfe took his jacket off and said, “C’mon let’s settle this outside.”
Hookem allegedly followed Woolfe outside of the chamber and a fight, when both men threw punches, ensued.
Sources said that Woolfe banged his head on a wall or window before the altercation was broken up.
Woolfe went to a Parliament voting session as normal at noon. He left after 20 minutes before collapsing on a walkway inside the Parliament.
His collapse was captured by news TV cameras. Woolfe was rushed to the hospital. Early reports said he was suffering from bleeding on the brain, but there has been no scan undertaken yet.
There were unsubstantiated (and probably mischievous) reports on social media that Hookem, UKIP’s defence spokesman, was on the run from French police.
But at the time of going to press, Strasbourg police had not yet begun investigating. A spokesman told EurActiv.com that that was just because there had been no complaint.
The police need a special mandate delivered by a judge to get inside the Parliament. A delegation of French police is stationed inside the Parliament, but did not immediately return calls.
A UKIP spokesman had earlier claimed that Woolfe “was taken suddenly ill in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg this morning. He has been taken to hospital in the city and he is undergoing tests”.
Woolfe, is supported by both Farage and Arron Banks, the party’s main financial backer, and was quick to throw his hat into the ring to replace James on Wednesday (5 October) .
He had wanted to stand against James in the previous leadership campaign but was disqualified after handing in his application papers late.
Outgoing UK Independence Party leader Diane James was at the helm for just 18 days before resigning yesterday (4 October) – following a leadership battle won with her reputation for tough professionalism.