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Ukip MEP stands down in Farage row

Published 19/05/2015

Patrick O'Flynn apologised to Nigel Farage
Patrick O'Flynn apologised to Nigel Farage

Ukip MEP Patrick O'Flynn has stepped down as the party's economic spokesman and apologised to leader Nigel Farage for publicly calling him "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive".

The former journalist told colleagues he felt "sincere regret" for giving a hostile newspaper interview amid controversy within the ranks over Mr Farage continuing in his role despite promising to quit if he failed to win a Commons seat.

After announcing that he was tendering his resignation as leader, the party's executive rejected it.

Mr O'Flynn's comments led to open party warfare, with several senior Ukip figures calling for Mr Farage to stand down while others lined up to defend him and two key officials lost their jobs.

Addressing a meeting of MEPs, he said: "I would like to express to colleagues my sincere regret at going public with my frustrations about the turn of events following polling day.

"And more than that, I would like to apologise directly to Nigel for the phrase 'snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive'.

"This was a fragment of a wider passage about perceptions and is not what I think of him. Nonetheless, I should have known better than anyone what use would be made of phrases that were both unfair and unkind.

"I am proud of what we achieved in the general election and am only sorry to have succumbed, as Roger (Helmer) put it with such impressive understatement, to public remarks that were 'unhelpful'.

"I think it appropriate to stand down as economic spokesman, which I have done. I hope in the months ahead to be of use to the great campaign to persuade the British people to leave the EU, which is after all what brought me into politics in the first place."

Mr Farage had promised to resign the leadership if he lost the Thanet South constituency at the general election and followed through on his pledge within minutes of defeat being confirmed. The U-turn came after party officials said he retained strong backing from party members.

But after the shock reverse, Mr O'Flynn told The Times Ukip was at risk of being turned into a "personality cult" and said there were "a couple of advisers who are pushing Nigel in the wrong direction both in terms of policy and style of leadership".

The party's sole MP - former Tory Douglas Carswell - urged the party leader to "take a break" after a campaign that saw the party secure more than 12% of the national vote share but end up with only one Commons seat.

He also criticised Mr Farage's "ill advised" decision to raise concerns about immigrants coming to Britain for free treatment for HIV, saying Ukip had not been striking the right "tone".

Both Mr O'Flynn and Mr Carswell were accused by Mr Farage's former chief of staff Raheem Kassam, one of those who departed at the height of the row, of bringing the party into "national disrepute".

Mr Farage said: "Patrick O'Flynn came in person to tell me he had realised that he had made a mistake and, being the honourable man that he is, tendered his resignation as Ukip economics spokesman.

"I accepted his resignation with some sadness, not least because he is very able and has been a great asset to the team. He continues to be a committed Ukip member and MEP."

Ukip deputy chairman Suzanne Evans confirmed she will no longer be the party's policy chief.

In a statement, she said: "It has been a great privilege to work with Ukip for the past four months to produce the 2015 General Election manifesto.

"I was delighted with the way it was received, especially by party members and supporters. While my contract for that work comes to an end next week, I remain in my voluntary post as deputy chairman."

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