Peter Whittle wins backing of rival in UKIP leadership race

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Out UKIP politician Peter Whittle has picked up an unlikely endorsement from a controversial rival.

The Brexit-backing UK Independence Party is holding its second leadership election of the year, following the resignations of Nigel Farage and short-lived leader Diane James.

A number of candidates have put themselves forward, including MEP Paul Nuttall, Parliamentary spokesperson Suzanne Evans, London Assembly Member Peter Whittle, and right-wing journalist Raheem Kassam.

One of the party’s most senior gay figures, Mr Whittle was the party’s candidate for Mayor of London earlier this year, but slumped to a fifth-place finish behind Labour, the Conservatives, the Greens and the Lib Dems.

He gained the endorsement of Mr Kassam this week, as the Breitbart UK journalist withdrew from the race.

Last week PinkNews revealed Kassam made a string of shocking anti-trans comments, attacking the “tranny-pushing BBC” and refusing to use “tranny terms” by referring to people by the correct pronouns

Mr Kassam also denied he was responsible for former leader Nigel Farage’s repeated criticism of HIV patients, despite working as his key adviser at the time.

In a statement today, Kassam said: “As of today, I am formally suspending my campaign for UKIP leader.

“After much consideration, I have decided not to pursue my campaign to be UKIP leader any further. This was a very difficult decision, and I want to thank everyone who supported me in the process.

“It is a decision I have not taken lightly, but following meetings this weekend I realised the path to victory is too narrow. I would encourage my supporters to back Peter Whittle, who I think would make a fantastic leader of the party.”