Ukip deputy Mike Hookem quits to run for leadership with blast at Gerard Batten
Ukip deputy leader Mike Hookem launched a scathing attack on boss Gerard Batten as he dramatically quit his post and launched a bid for the top job.
He said the party had become “derailed” under Mr Batten and that he wanted to offer a “real alternative,” after Ukip was thought to have taken a pasting at the European Parliament elections.
Scores of prominent Ukip figures have resigned from the party in protest at Mr Batten’s anti-Islam stance and his embrace of controversial far-right campaigner Tommy Robinson.
Former leader Nigel Farage was one of those who quit, and later set up the Brexit Party, which is on course for a huge win in the European elections.
Mr Batten was elected Ukip leader unopposed in April 2018 but always promised to quit after a year to allow a full contest.
In a damning letter to party officials, Mr Hookem accused the incumbent of having “squandered our natural advantage”.
He added: “I believe Ukip always has been and always should be a libertarian party that encourages and promotes common-sense policies with a broad electoral appeal.
“However, under Mr Batten's leadership, and despite my appeals, Ukip has been derailed from this objective.
“Mr Batten's policy direction and associations have given the mainstream media the ammunition to label our party 'extreme' and 'far-right', accusations I do not believe to be true."
But Mr Batten told the BBC he had saved the party “from oblivion” and insisted Tommy Robinson was “a good person to have onside”.
He failed to comment when approached by PoliticsHome.
Former EDL leader Mr Robinson - real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - was appointed as an advisor to Mr Batten on prisons and rape gangs at the end of last year.
He has been unable to become a Ukip member, because he formerly held membership of the BNP, and stood as an independent candidate at the European elections.
Ukip was polling at less than 3% in the days leading up to the vote.
Mr Hookem hit the headlines in 2016 when he hospitalised then-Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe by puching him at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.