LONDON: Bitter tensions in Britain’s anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) turned into open war on Tuesday (Feb 28) as founder Nigel Farage called for its only member of parliament to quit.
Farage said Douglas Carswell “actively and transparently seeks to damage us”, writing in the rightwing Daily Telegraph: “The time for him to go is now.”
A key force behind Britain’s vote to leave the EU last year, the party has been struggling for months with infighting and has failed to find a winning platform beyond its core message of euroscepticism and opposition to mass immigration.
A long-standing feud between Farage and Carswell came to a head following UKIP’s defeat last week in a by-election that had been viewed as the party’s best hope to win a second MP.
Tensions increased over Farage’s failed bid to obtain a knighthood for his role in the June referendum vote to leave the European Union.
Emails leaked to the Telegraph show Carswell mocked Farage’s chances of receiving the honour, saying he should get an award for “services to headline writers”.
Farage told the paper that the former Conservative MP had not been supportive, adding: “He is consumed by jealousy and a desire to hurt both UKIP and me.”
The row comes after UKIP donor Arron Banks accused the party at the weekend of being run “like a jumble sale” under new leader Paul Nuttall and threatened to set up a rival movement if it did not shape up.
‘MAKE IT ELECTABLE’
The Brexit vote was a success for UKIP but raised questions about the party’s relevance after Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May promised a clean break with the EU.
Farage resigned as UKIP leader after the referendum and went to the United States to campaign for Donald Trump, but was forced to return as the party descended into chaos. His successor Diane James quit after 18 days, and the favourite to follow her, Steven Woolfe, left the party after an altercation with a fellow MEP.
New leader Nuttall saw a chance to revive UKIP’s fortunes by standing in last week’s by-election in Stoke-on-Trent in northern England, where 69 per cent of locals had voted for Brexit.
But his campaign was dogged by claims he lied about losing close friends in the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster, and the opposition Labour party held the seat.
In an interview with the conservative Sunday Express newspaper, Banks demanded to be made chairman of the party so he could “make it electable, or I am out of there”. He called for Carswell to be ejected, saying “these dullards aren’t bringing in Tory votes, Stoke proved that. So what are they for?”
Farage suggested last week that UKIP lost in Stoke because it was not tough enough on immigration, an issue that dominated the EU referendum campaign.
On Tuesday, the MEP accused Carswell of being soft on the subject, adding: “I think there is little future for UKIP with him staying inside this party.”
Carswell responded saying: “If he wants to come and talk to the UKIP parliamentary party about any concerns he has, (it is) very happy to respond. It won’t take long, it’s just me.”
UKIP secured 12.5 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election, but under Britain’s electoral system, Carswell was its only candidate to win a place in the 650-seat House of Commons.