Ukip still viable after Steven Woolfe’s exit, says chairman

Ukip chairman says party must focus on finding Nigel Farage’s successor as leader

Ukip party chairman Paul Oakden: dismissed North-West England MEP Steven Woolfe’s resignation as a side issue. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Ukip party chairman Paul Oakden: dismissed North-West England MEP Steven Woolfe’s resignation as a side issue. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

 

Ukip’s chairman has insisted the party remains viable following the departure of Steven Woolfe, the frontrunner to succeed Nigel Farage as leader. Mr Woolfe, an MEP for North-West England who was hospitalised after a physical altercation with another MEP earlier this month, left the party this week, claiming it had descended into a “death spiral”.

Party chairman Paul Oakden dismissed Mr Woolfe’s resignation as a side issue and said Ukip must now focus on finding a new leader who could offer fresh direction and purpose.

“I’m disappointed that Steven has gone, but let’s be clear here – this was someone who was under investigation by the party for being involved in an altercation that came about in a meeting that was called due to him talking to the Conservatives about defecting. So there were clearly underlying problems there, both from his perspective and clearly from the party’s perspective as well,” Mr Oakden told the BBC.

Mr Farage returned as interim leader after his successor, Diane James, resigned just 18 days after taking on the role. Ukip is riven by feuds, and Mr Farage is not on speaking terms with the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, and its leader in Wales, Neil Hamilton.

Direction and purpose

“Clearly Ukip is facing some challenges at the moment. I remain entirely confident that the election of our new leader will solve many of those problems. We are looking for somebody now to lead our party, to take our party forward, to give it fresh direction and fresh purpose,” Mr Oakden said.

Nominations for the leadership opened on Monday and will close on October 31st, with the new leader announced at the end of November. David Coburn, Ukip’s Scottish MEP, who is considering running for the leadership, said Mr Farage’s dominance had helped to keep a lid on internal tensions which now threatened the party.

“If we don’t pull ourselves together, there’s a great danger we could be in trouble,” he said.

“It’s not about who’s running the party, it’s about how we work together as a group. It’s country, party, self last, I’m not on some sort of ego trip. If colleagues wanted me to do it and there’s a good enough reason for it and I felt I could do it then maybe I would. But the thing is we should agree among ourselves who’s best to do it and then we move forward.”