Ukip exodus continues as former leader Paul Nuttall quits over Tommy Robinson links
Two more top Ukip figures have quit the party in protest at its association with right-wing activist Tommy Robinson.
The party’s former leader Paul Nuttall said the appointment of Mr Robinson as an advisor on rape gangs and prison reform was a “catastrophic error”, while Ukip's Scottish leader David Coborn quit with a blast at the party’s growing focus on English nationalism and Islam.
In a statement, Mr Nuttall - who is a North West England MEP - said: “After much soul searching over the past week, I have concluded that I must, as of today, resign as a member of Ukip.
"I do this with an immense amount of reluctance and regret, as I have worked tirelessly for the party for the past fourteen years.
“I am resigning because the party is being taken in a direction which I believe is harmful to Brexit.
"The association with Tommy Robinson will simply appal many moderate Brexit voters and inevitably be detrimental to the cause.”
He added: “Putting Tommy Robinson front and centre, while Brexit is in the process of being betrayed and inevitably be detrimental to the cause.”
Meanwhile, Mr Coburn, the party’s only elected official in Scotland - said the party had been "infiltrated by people with an alternative agenda".
He said: "I did not run on an anti-Islam platform. Unfortunately, this seems to be the direction that Ukip is taking – obsessing about this issue to the exclusion of all else at a time when we might lose the Brexit we fought so hard for."
Their resignations follow several high-profile walkouts in recent days over the party’s lurch to the right, including the exit of former leader Nigel Farage/
But, in an interview with PoliticsHome, Mr Batten defended the decision to shift the party’s direction.
“When I took over in February the membership was falling through the floor," he said. "We were losing 800 people a month. I’ve put on 8,000 new members since I took over. We’re now up to 26,000 members. We’ve got people joining every day."
Speaking as part of PoliticsHome's in-depth look into the state of the party, Mr Batten said: “You can’t fight a war unless you have got weapons and you need money to buy weapons.”
Mr Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – was sentenced to 13 months' in prison for contempt of court earlier this year after he filmed members of a grooming case during the trial.
The case was eventually quashed but has now been referred to the attorney general for review.