UKIP ‘on brink of imploding’ after frontrunner blocked from leadership election

The UK Independence Party is in disarray amid claims of a “coup” – with a spate of resignations after the party’s leadership frontrunner was blocked from the election.

Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader for a third time last month in the wake of the EU referendum, promising to walk away from the role for good.

The planned leadership contest has already been marred by controversy, after a last-minute rule change by the executive that requires all leadership candidates to have been a UKIP member for several years – excluding many of the senior UKIP figures mooted for the position.

Today the party’s executive also voted to expel leadership frontrunner Steven Woolfe from the race, as he submitted his nominations forms 17 minutes late.

The decision has shaken the party, with supporters of Woolfe accusing execs led by MP Douglas Carswell and Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton of masterminding a “coup” in the party.

Six candidates have been approved for the leadership election: MEPs Jonathan Arnott, Bill Etheridge and Diane James, local councillor Lisa Duffy, and activists Elizabeth Jones and Phillip Broughton (who hold no elected office).

At least three members of the party’s NEC have already resigned in protest.

Arron Banks, the party’s largest donor, branded the move the “last straw”, hinting that he could pull his support from the party and warning it could be “finished”.

He said: “We have 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.”

Michael McGough, one of the NEC members to resign, told the BBC: “If we don’t get this right, we don’t get a competent leader who’s comfortable with the media, the party could be finished.

“It’s life or death now and that’s why I’ve taken such a strong decision to leave the NEC.

“Because we need reform and we need it now so that we are ready to fight the next general election and the local elections next year where we’re supposed to do quite well.”

Raheem Kassam, Nigel Farage’s former chief of staff, said he would “declare full-scale war on UKIP, using all the assets and sources at my disposal to topple the Tory establishment that is trying to take over the party”.

Leaked internal vetting documents earlier this year showed the party had knowingly let a number of people flagged as having homophobic views stand as UKIP candidates.