Nigel Farage quits Ukip over 'fixation' with 'thuggish' Tommy Robinson
Nigel Farage has resigned from Ukip "with a heavy heart" over the current leadership’s "fixation" with former English Defence Leader Tommy Robinson and the issue of Islam.
The party’s former chief said a “fundamental” shift in Ukip under Gerard Batten to the “party of street activism” - as well as its alignment with far-right figures meant it was “no longer the party” Brexit supporters need.
“The great irony of this change in approach is that it is happening at a time of maximum electoral opportunity for Ukip,” he wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph.
“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.”
The ex-leader said Mr Robinson was “entirely unsuitable to be involved in any political party” and blasted his entourage of “violent criminals and ex-BNP members”.
The move comes days ahead of a planned pro-Brexit march in central London, which Mr Robinson is set to be involved in alongside Mr Batten.
Mr Farage’s decision comes after he criticised the current leader’s “appalling” move to appoint the former EDL head as an adviser on prison reform and grooming gangs.
The MEP, and one of the party's founding members, said Ukip's top ruling body had shown a lack of “courage” in their decision not to hold a vote of no-confidence in the leader in recent days.
“There was one last opportunity to stop Ukip being part of this probable travesty, which may well inspire violence and thuggish behaviour and, with it, give the opponents of Brexit a chance to lambast Brexiteers everywhere,” he said.
“Ukip's NEC restated that it did not want Robinson to be installed as an advisor. In doing so, however, it did not pass a motion of no confidence in Mr Batten’s leadership. I only wish that those concerned had shown more courage.”
In reference to the planned march in the capital on Sunday, he added: “We are now just a few days away from the most ill-judged political event I have ever been aware of in British politics.
“The very idea of Tommy Robinson being at the centre of the Brexit debate is too awful to contemplate.
“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.”
Mr Farage’s resignation comesjust a day after former deputy leader Suzanne Evans quit and a week after former economics spokesperson Patrick O’Flynn – both of whom cited links to Mr Robinson as behind their decision to quit.