Raheem Kassam withdraws from Ukip leadership contest

Move by Farage ally cements front-runner status of former deputy leader Paul Nuttall

Raheem Kassam suspended his bid to be Ukip leader after meetings with supporters over the weekend. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Raheem Kassam suspended his bid to be Ukip leader after meetings with supporters over the weekend. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

 

Raheem Kassam, Nigel Farage’s former chief of staff, has withdrawn from the race to be Ukip leader, leaving a two-way between Paul Nuttall and Suzanne Evans.

The right-wing journalist had been the most colourful contender in the field, expressing admiration for Donald Trump and gaining the backing of the major Ukip donor Arron Banks.

Despite controversy over comments suggesting Nicola Sturgeon should tape her legs shut and describing Ms Evans as a wrinkly ginger bird, he became the second favourite to win behind Mr Nuttall.

However, he suspended his bid on Monday after meetings with supporters over the weekend, saying he had concluded the “path to victory is too narrow”.

Mr Kassam claimed he was not confident in the integrity of the ballot and attacked his treatment by the media, after a journalist approached his parents at their home.

He also acknowledged he had not raised enough funds to hold meetings around the country to connect with the Ukip grassroots, meaning he would have been able to run only a digital campaign from Westminster.

In a statement on his website, Mr Kassam said: “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.”

Mr Kassam will return to his job as the editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, travelling to the United States this week to cover the last leg of the presidential elections.

His withdrawal cements the position of Mr Nuttall, the former deputy leader of Ukip, as the favourite to win. – (Guardian service)