Nigel Farage challenges party insider in Ukip spat
The party leader, who dramatically withdrew his resignation within a few days of stepping down, criticised this person - who he did not name - for not having the “courage to break cover”.
Mr Farage’s comments come as his former chief of staff Raheem Kassam warned that Ukip’s only MP and its campaign chief were bringing the party into “major national disrepute”.
Mr Kassam, who will leave the party at the end of the month, hit out at Douglas Carswell and Patrick O’Flynn, the economics spokesman who sparked an explosive row over Mr Farage’s leadership after accusing him of turning the party into a “personality cult”.
Mr O’Flynn’s comments have led to open warfare with several senior Ukip figures calling for Mr Farage to stand down, while others have lined up to defend him.
Mr Farage, who dismissed the row as “people letting off steam”, said today: “Two or three people need to make their minds up. Are their futures with Ukip or aren’t they?
“To read the ludicrous headlines ... makes you realise that actually this is really about a Conservative attempt by the Conservative lobby to try and destabilise Ukip and use one or two people within who are disaffected.”
He told Sky News: “The National Executive unanimously support me, the leader of the MEP group supports me, the leader of the House of Lords group supports me.
“I have had every single major donor, all of our biggest donors ever in the history of Ukip, all publicly came out yesterday.
“It’s very difficult to get more support than I have got.
“Even Patrick O’Flynn, who made some personal comments that weren’t particularly pleasant, said he 100% supports me as leader.
“There is one person within Ukip agitating for a change and for a leadership election. He hasn’t had the courage to break cover, but he must make his mind up. Is his future with Ukip or not?”
Mr Kassam has backed his former boss and dragged Mr Carswell into the row, accusing the Clacton MP and Mr O’Flynn of acting on “purely selfish terms” and calling for the pair to leave.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I feel a bit of responsibility in the sense that the characters who brought this up, namely Douglas Carswell and Patrick O’Flynn, are acting on purely selfish terms.
“They saw me as Nigel’s sort of body armour and that if they went after me that they would get to Nigel.
“These people are not acting in the best interests of the party, what they are doing is bringing the party into major national disrepute and I don’t think they have a place in the party.”
He also said a leadership election could settle the issue, adding: “Anybody who has any loyalty to the party will back the leader at this point and will see the party through to a 2020 campaign when we take lots of northern seats.”
But Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe told BBC1’s Breakfast: “That’s not an issue that I think we need to discuss. What is better is to have a leader who has shown that he is exceptional in the way that he deals with the European Union question.”
In the background of the row over party leadership, Ukip is involved in a stand-off with Mr Carswell, 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.
The MP 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 has said. “I am staunchly and proudly Ukip.”
Mr Farage was widely mocked for resigning from the leadership after failing to win the South Thanet seat he contested during the general election, only to be reinstated three days later at the urging of the party’s executive committee.
He moved to defend his position on BBC Question Time last night, saying: “The election’s over, people are letting off steam, and we’ve seen one or two people fighting personal wars against each other.”
He added: “The level of support for me in the party is phenomenal and frankly, to go through a leadership contest at a time when Mr Cameron says he’s renegotiating our relationship with the European Union, would be a massive, massive mistake.”