The racist Ukip party has descended into civil war after the favourite to be the party’s next leader, Steven Woolfe, was banned from standing.
The party’s national executive committee (NEC) ruled that Woolfe could not stand as his application wasn’t received in time. The ruling led to bitter infighting among Ukip members and three NEC members resigned.
The scale of the crisis drove Ukip deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, to say, “I fear our party could be broken beyond repair”.
He wrote in the Daily Express, “All I read and hear these days are insults, name-calling, resignations and threats of expulsions.”
The vitriol against the decision pushed a group of NEC members, Piers Wauchope, Adrianne Smyth and Toby Coke, to publish a statement last Sunday.
“Things have gone too far,” it whined. “If you were to arrive late at an airport and missed your flight, would you vilify the airline, call for it to be disbanded, or post pictures of people wielding rifles on Facebook calling for the airline’s management to be shot?
“That, in essence, is exactly what members of YI [Young Independence] have done.”
The statement claimed that Ukip members “attacking the NEC” wanted to “abolish” the NEC and were “hostile to Ukip’s internal democracy”.
They may have a point.
Former leader Nigel Farage is allegedly working with Woolfe’s allies to call an extraordinary general meeting with the aim of abolishing the NEC.
Farage recently attacked the NEC as “total amateurs” and “among the lowest grade of people I have ever met”.
He provoked the leadership contest when he resigned after the European Union (EU) referendum.
Woolfe, Ukip MEP for the North West of England and Ukip’s spokesperson on migration, was expected to succeed him.
He makes much of his mixed race heritage while attacking immigrants coming to Britain.
The approved candidates for Ukip leader are Bill Etheridge, Diane James, Elizabeth Jones, Jonathan Arnott, Lisa Duffy and Phillip Broughton.
Ukip was widely expected to be boosted by the Leave vote in the EU referendum. Instead it is in deep crisis and losing members.
And that crisis is likely to continue after a new leader is elected.
Woolfe’s backers have already declared that any new leader will not have a clear mandate if Woolfe is kept off the ballot paper.