Thursday 29 September 2016

Nigel Farage's chief of staff leaves UKIP

Tim Sculthorpe, Ben Kendall and David Hughes

Published 14/05/2015 | 19:42

Ukip Leader Nigel Farage (right) with Ukip election strategist, Raheem Kassam as The Times has reported that he is one of the the aides targeted by Ukip MEP Mr O'Flynn Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Ukip Leader Nigel Farage (right) with Ukip election strategist, Raheem Kassam as The Times has reported that he is one of the the aides targeted by Ukip MEP Mr O'Flynn Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Nigel Farage's chief of staff has left his post as the Ukip leader faces rapidly rising pressure to hold on to his job.

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Mr Farage, who sensationally withdrew his resignation as Ukip leader on Monday at the urging of party's ruling committee, has faced a surge of infighting in the wake of the party's failure to win more than a single seat at last week's General Election.

Top donor Stuart Wheeler has called for Mr Farage to quit for the second time in a week, while election campaign director Patrick O'Flynn claimed Mr Farage was turning the party into a "personality cult" at the urging of his private staff

Two of those team members - chief of staff Raheem Kassam and party secretary Matthew Richardson - appear to have left the party within hours of the storm breaking.

Mr Kassam said: "I was General Election 2015 staff. My contract has always expired at the end of this month and I am on holiday until then.

"I continue to support the party under the leadership of Nigel Farage."

A Ukip spokesman said Mr Kassam "no longer works for Ukip".

Sources at the party earlier suggested that Mr Richardson had offered his resignation in a bid to calm the growing row.

Mr O'Flynn, who began today's storm with an explosive interview in The Times, told the Press Association: "I may well have burnt my bridges but it had to be said.

Read more: UKIP rejects resignation of Nigel Farage as party leader

"I'm not in politics to pursue personal seniority but to persuade the British public that we are good enough to govern ourselves away from the EU.

"I can't imagine I've done myself any favours within the party but I'm trying to make the point that the British people will soon face the biggest choice in several generations over the EU referendum.

"In order to maximise our chance in that vote, we need a leadership which broadens and doesn't narrow our political horizons.

"There are a couple of advisers who are pushing Nigel in the wrong direction both in terms of policy and style of leadership."

Spread betting tycoon Mr Wheeler, a former party treasurer who donated almost £100,000 to help fund Ukip's General Election campaign, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Mr Farage should go.

He said: "I would like him to step down, at least for the moment. And if he wants to put himself up in an election, then he has every right to do so, though I personally would prefer somebody else now."

With the prospect of an in/out referendum on Europe, Mr Wheeler said "the type of campaign that's now needed has to be slightly less aggressive and more towards winning over people in the centre".

Mr Farage announced that he was quitting the leadership after defeat in South Thanet as he had repeatedly promised during the campaign.

But when the national executive committee considered the letter on Monday, members rejected it and persuaded Mr Farage to stay on.

In earlier interviews, Ukip MEP Mr O'Flynn denied he was launching a "coup" against Mr Farage but hit out at "poisonous individuals" in the leader's inner circle who he claimed wanted to push the party into a "hard-right, ultra-aggressive American Tea Party" approach.

In an extraordinary Times interview, Mr O'Flynn claimed Mr Farage had become a "snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive" man whose behaviour risked the party looking like an "absolutist monarchy".

Read more: UKIP win council seat where former party leader Nigel Farage lost

Mr Farage, speaking to reporters outside the party's London office, said: "If the NEC unanimously back me, that's not my fault, is it?"

Meanwhile, the party is involved in a stand-off with its only MP, 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.

Douglas Carswell 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."

Ukip's deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, said: "The General Election was a great success, delivering four million votes in the bag. The 2020 vision is on course.

"Ukip have the best communicator in British politics leading this party and who will play a vital role during the referendum campaign."

MEP David Campbell Bannerman, who fought Mr Farage for the Ukip leadership in 2010 before defecting to the Conservatives, said it might be time for the Ukip leader to consider his position.

Mr Campbell Bannerman told BBC News Channel: "I think Ukip has outgrown Nigel Farage. It is much larger than it was and there are a lot more activists.

"I think maybe Nigel should consider his position. He deserves a rest and he should be involved in the referendum campaign. The Conservative in/out referendum and the campaign within the Conservative Party is where people should be now.

"Nigel Farage should work on the referendum and not be fighting this great battle within Ukip."

One of Ukip's biggest donors, Alan Bown, said: "I have given nearly £2 million to Ukip and first got involved because of Nigel. Nigel speaks for ordinary people, which is why four million people voted for us last week.

"He has had the guts to talk openly about immigration and it's only because of Nigel that now everyone is talking about this subject.

"It's the first time for 100 years that a smaller party has broken through to get 3.8 million votes to become the third largest party and this is due to Nigel's leadership. He has my full support."

Former Ukip leader Lord Pearson also issued a supportive statement as the party moved to rally support around Mr Farage.

He said: "Nigel fought a brilliant election campaign and what an achievement it was to get nearly four million votes. Nigel has my full support as leader."

Former Ukip leader Roger Knapman said the membership should now be given a say on the party's future.

"I don't under-estimate what Nigel has achieved over the years but he cannot take up and put down the leadership crown at will," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

"I do think it is time now party members had the opportunity to say whether or not there should be a leadership election."

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