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South East MEP Nigel Farage quits Ukip party

By KentOnline reporter

Nigel Farage has quit Ukip, the party he formerly led, in protest at its appointment of far-right activist Tommy Robinson as an adviser.

Mr Farage, who is still an MEP for the South East, said he was leaving the party "with a heavy heart" and criticised the direction of the party under its present leader Gerard Batten.

Farage stood for the party for the South Thanet seat during the 2015 General Election, which he lost to Craig Mackinlay, who is on trial for allegedly filing fraudulant election expenses during the campaign.

Nigel Farage (5800273)
Nigel Farage (5800273)

He resigned as party leader after that defeat, although he withdrew it days later, but said it has been left "unrecognisable" by its present leadership's "fixation with the issue of Islam".

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, he said: "With the Conservative and Labour parties having openly broken both their referendum and general election promises, Ukip should be riding high in the polls.

"With regret, however, I must admit that I now do not believe it will do so again.

"Mr Batten’s obsession with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (to use Tommy Robinson’s real name) and fixation with the issue of Islam makes Ukip unrecognisable to many of us.

"While Robinson may hold an appeal to some members of society who feel they are disenfranchised, I believe he is entirely unsuitable to be involved in any political party.

"The fact is that his entourage includes violent criminals and ex-BNP members. Many Ukip members - including Ukip’s NEC – urged that Robinson should not become an advisor to Batten. Sadly, these pleas fell on deaf ears."

Nigel Thanet lost his election bid for South Thanet in 2015
Nigel Thanet lost his election bid for South Thanet in 2015

He added: "And so, with a heavy heart, and after all my years of devotion to the party, I am leaving Ukip today.

"There is a huge space for a Brexit party in British politics, but it won’t be filled by Ukip."

Henry Bolton, who was briefly UKIP leader and had been endorsed by Mr Farage, said: " I think he has made absolutely the right decision.

"Anyone who remains with Ukip now is likely to be painted with the label of hard right and understandably so given the disastrous direction the party is heading in under Gerard Batten.

"I think it is disastrous for the party and for Brexit."

Asked if Mr Farage had held any discussions with him about joining his new party, Mr Bolton said he could not comment.

Nigel Farage kicked off his Brexit campaign in Thanet in 2015
Nigel Farage kicked off his Brexit campaign in Thanet in 2015

"Nigel is not sure himself about what to do next but he has a number of options," he said.

"He and I agree entirely that there is a space in politics for a pro-Brexit party."

ANALYSIS

by Political Editor Paul Francis

If ever a party was embodied by its leader, it was Ukip.

Derided as fruitcakes and loonies by David Cameron, Nigel Farage revelled in the role of the anti-establishment party leader exhorting his so-called "People's Army" to get under the skin of mainstream politicians.

And it was in Kent that the party developed something of a power base, scoring victory in the European elections in 2014, a year after coming from nowhere to win 22 county council seats.

He was a leader who had a quality that many didn't - an ability to communicate and identify with the interests of ordinary people who felt that the political establishment did not speak for them.

Nigel Farage at the bar in the Belle Vue pub in Cliftonville during his Brexit campaign
Nigel Farage at the bar in the Belle Vue pub in Cliftonville during his Brexit campaign

What you saw was what you got, even down to the smoking and drinking which some saw as contrived.

But his ambition to become an MP - something he had tried to do on six previous occasions - was thwarted in the general election 2015 after a ferocious contest in which he was edged out by the Conservative Craig Mackinlay.

He has been called the ultimate Marmite politician: you either loved him or you loathed him and there is not much by way of the middle ground.

But whatever side of the fence you came down on, he achieved one of his main objectives in securing a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union and then winning the vote.

Could he come back into politics? It is unlikely but you never know.

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