Ukip’s Steven Woolfe ‘recovering’ in hospital after parliament ‘altercation’

A handout picture released by ITV NEWS shows UK Independence Party MEP, Steven Woolfe, lying face-down on a walk-way inside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Picture: AFP

A handout picture released by ITV NEWS shows UK Independence Party MEP, Steven Woolfe, lying face-down on a walk-way inside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Picture: AFP

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Ukip leadership favourite Steven Woolfe is recovering in hospital after being admitted in a “serious” condition following an altercation at a meeting of the party’s MEPs.

The 49-year-old MEP said in a statement that a CT scan had shown that there was no blood clot on his brain but that he was being kept in hospital overnight as a precaution.

Steven Woolfe collapsed in the European Parliament.  Picture: PA

Steven Woolfe collapsed in the European Parliament. Picture: PA

“At the moment I am feeling brighter, happier, and smiling as ever. As a precaution, I am being kept in overnight awaiting secondary tests to make sure everything in fine,” he said.

“I would like everyone to know that the parliamentary staff, the Ukip MEPs with me and hospital staff have been brilliant. Their care has been exceptional.

“I am sitting up, and said to be looking well. The only consequence at the moment is a bit of numbness on the left hand side of my face. “

It is understood that Mr Woolfe passed out after suffering what were described as two “epileptic-like fits” as well numbness on the left hand side of his body.

In his statement he made no reference to the reported altercation which took place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

There were unconfirmed reports that he was punched during the course of an argument while other reports suggested he hit his head after falling heavily.

A spokeswoman for French national police said that the incident had not been reported to them and they had no current plans to investigate.

“If someone decides to ring and make a complaint, we will of course follow it up,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the European Parliament confirmed Mr Woolfe had collapsed in the main building in Strasbourg, and said that an investigation into the circumstances was now under way.

The incident nevertheless left MEPs and activists reeling in a party which has at times appeared to lurch from one crisis to another.

Earlier, party leader Nigel Farage disclosed that Mr Woolfe’s collapse followed a confrontation at a meeting of Ukip MEPs.

“I deeply regret that, following an altercation that took place at a meeting of Ukip MEPs this morning, Steven Woolfe subsequently collapsed and was taken to hospital. His condition is serious,” he said.

A photograph posted on the ITV News website showed the MEP lying spreadeagled and face down on a gangway clutching a briefcase, with an attendant leaning over him.

MEP Roger Helmer, who was at the meeting, confirmed there had been “a lively exchange of views” but said he did not see any physical confrontation.

He said the incident took place “a good two hours” before Mr Woolfe collapsed during a voting session at the parliament.

“There were some lively exchanges of views. I think you’ll find that’s not uncommon in political meetings. I certainly saw no physical altercation take place,” he told the BBC.

“We had a typical, general discussion about the previous leadership elections, the situation following Diane James stepping down, and obviously the steps we need to take to get a new leader in place.”

Neil Hamilton, the Ukip leader in the Welsh Assembly, who was not present, said he had been told Mr Woolfe “toppled over and hit his head on a glass window” after the confrontation.

“It must have been quite a wallop, I guess, to have had the impact that it seems to have had,” he told the BBC.

The incident is a further body blow for a party that was already in the grip of a leadership crisis following the shock resignation of Ms James just 18 days after she was elected to the post.

Mr Woolfe, the party’s immigration spokesman, was the first contender to throw his hat in the ring having been barred from standing in the last leadership election after it was ruled he submitted his nomination papers 17 minutes late.

There were claims that he had angered some MEPs by admitting that he had considered defecting to the Conservatives before declaring his candidacy.

In a statement, Mr Woolfe said he had been “enthused” by Theresa May’s start to her premiership, which had prompted him “as it did many of my friends and colleagues, to wonder whether our future was within her new Conservative Party”.

The incident comes against a background of bitter rivalry and feuding within the Ukip ranks - with many senior figures openly at odds with each other.

Feelings were already running high, with some in the party deeply unhappy at Mr Farage’s decision to carry on as interim leader until a permanent successor was in place.

The only other candidate to declare so far, Raheem Kassam - a former aide to Mr Farage - warned that the party could not look forward to a positive future unless it was able to heal the “internal fractures”.

“There are so many people shaking hands with one another and then knifing them in private. It has to stop,” he said.

“I’m clear about what I stand for: a strong, united Ukip, free of the Tory splitters ... I’m sick of the backstabbing and negative briefings. If I have something negative to say about someone, I’ll say it to their face, not behind their backs.”

Mr Hamilton, who has long been at odds with Mr Farage, described the abuse within the party as a “cancer” which needed to be stamped out.

“There is, actually, too much violence going on in Ukip generally at the moment. I don’t mean physical violence, but stuff which is being traded online, some pretty unpleasant things that are being said,” he said.

“This is a cancer which must be stamped out in the party - should have been stamped out already.”

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