Ukip leadership contest 'could finish the party'
Ukip was thrown into turmoil yesterday when frontrunner Steven Woolfe was ruled out of the leadership contest in a move that two senior figures said could signal the end of the party.
Ukip's National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled the MEP should not be on the final ballot after he submitted his application 17 minutes late. Three committee members immediately resigned in protest at the decision.
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"The NEC has proven it is not fit for purpose and it confirmed many member's fears that it is neither effective nor professional in the way it governs the party," Woolfe said.
It follows a difficult week for the party's immigration spokesman, who was accused of letting his membership lapse and of failing to declare a previous conviction for drink-driving when standing as police and crime commissioner in 2012.
Former leader Nigel Farage "may call an emergency meeting of the party's members to try to ensure that Mr Woolfe is nominated", says The Independent.
If the furore around Woolfe has proved anything, says Asa Bennett in the Daily Telegraph, it is that "Ukip can't cope without Nigel Farage".
He may have had his enemies "but even they wouldn't deny he gave Ukip a sense of direction, knocked heads together and kept a lid on tensions within the party", adds the journalist.
Internal fault lines have now opened up within the party, with Faragists threatening "full-scale war" against the NEC. The former leader himself has been vocal in his criticism of the party's ruling body, describing some of its members as "among the lowest grade of people I have ever met".
Michael McGough, one of the NEC members who resigned, said the row could be fatal for the party.
He told the BBC they must get a "competent leader who's comfortable with the media", otherwise the party "could be finished".
He went to blame a "faction" within Ukip, including its only MP, Douglas Carswell, and the suspended ex-deputy chairman Suzanne Evans, "for ending Woolfe's leadership hopes amid other accusations of a 'coup'", reports the Daily Express.
Ukip's biggest backer, Aaron Banks, echoed these sentiments and suggested he could now ditch the party and bankroll a new movement to challenge Labour to become the England's second party.
He told City AM that yesterday's decision made such a scenario "more likely" and that he "had been looking at whether a new party should start, which bits we might want to keep and what is the best way of doing things".
Ukip 'farce' as frontrunner Steven Woolfe excluded from leadership race
Ukip has been plunged into turmoil after its National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled leadership frontrunner Steven Woolfe was ineligible to stand in the contest to replace Nigel Farage.
An NEC statement said a "clear majority" had considered the MEP's application to be ineligible as a result of a late submission.
Ahead of the decision, political blogger Guido Fawkes wrote: "Nigel Farage's allies have promised to 'declare full scale war on Ukip' if Steven Woolfe is kept off the ballot today."
Guido also quoted Raheem Kassam, Farage's former chief aide, who alleges the "Tory establishment" is trying to take over the party, before concluding: "A war is coming and it is going to be bloody…"
The Tory takeover view is endorsed in The Guardian, which claims businessman Arron Banks "blamed a coup led by those close to Douglas Carswell, the Ukip MP and critic of Farage, and Neil Hamilton, the former MP".
Banks, a major Ukip donor and the co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign, told City AM Woolfe was the leading candidate "so to exclude him because of a computer glitch on a website is insanity".
Michael Crick, Channel 4 News's political correspondent, tweeted that Banks had told him: "Only Ukip could do it worse than Labour. It takes some doing. They are in full meltdown".
The Spectator's James Forsyth, meanwhile, said he would not rule out a split in the party if the NEC fails to back down on its decision.
With Ukip's two best-known figures apart from Farage kept off the ballot by "procedural ruses", the journalist says the leadership contest is turning into farce.
"Ukip's Barack Obama" has only himself to blame, says the Daily Telegraph's Asa Bennett, saying Woolfe has form where administrative oversights are concerned – he apparently "forgot" to declare a drink-driving conviction when he stood as police and crime commissioner in 2012.
"Steven Woolfe's rise and fall in the end serves to show how much Ukip will struggle without the flamboyant Mr Farage," concludes Bennett.
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