Nigel Farage has quit Ukip after 25 years in protest over new leader Gerard Batten’s ‘obsession with Muslims’ and his appointment of Tommy Robinson as an adviser on ‘Muslim rape gangs’.
‘And so, with a heavy heart, and after all my years of devotion to the party, I am leaving Ukip today,’ he wrote in The Telegraph. ‘There is a huge space for a Brexit party in British politics, but it won’t be filled by Ukip.’
Speaking later on LBC, Mr Farage accused Mr Batten of ‘turning a blind eye to extremism’ and attempting to turn the party from an ‘electoral’ force into a ‘party of street activism’.
Nigel Farage (seen speaking at the European Parliament on November 29, 2018) has long opposed the appointment of Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon
Mr Batten has described Islam as a ‘death cult’ and called for possible policies including Muslim-only prisons.
Ukip’s national executive committee (NEC) met at the weekend to consider his future as leader, but it voted against a motion of no confidence in Mr Batten.
Mr Batten has previously defended his decision to give English Defence League (EDL) co-founder Mr Robinson a role advising him on rape gangs and prison reform, describing him as ‘courageous’.
But Mr Farage said Ukip had been successful in the past because it had a policy of ‘excluding extremists’. The ex-leader has previously the appointment of Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, would turn Ukip into the BNP.
He wrote in The Telegraph today: ‘Under my leadership of Ukip, the party banned former members of the BNP and EDL from joining. Many accusations of racism and extremism were thrown at us, but I strongly maintain they were untrue.
‘Under Gerard Batten’s leadership, however, the party’s direction has changed fundamentally.’
He said the fact that Ukip was fielding ‘very few candidates’ in local council by-elections showed it was becoming increasingly irrelevant in the electoral sphere.
‘Worse still, many of our very best organisers and activists on the ground have resigned their positions. This means we no longer have a professional campaigning team.
‘The party of elections is quickly becoming a party of street activism, with our members being urged to attend marches rather than taking the fight to the ballot box.’
Mr Farage also discussed his resignation tonight on LBC, saying he believed Mr Batten had become ‘obsessed with Islam, not just Islamic extremism’.
Farage: Ukip’s flirtation with Tommy Robinson will turn it into the new BNP
Mr Farage used an interview last weekend to condemn Ukip’s direction under new leader Gerrard Batten and attack his decision to support an anti-Brexit demonstration in London on Sunday.
He said the event, which Tommy Robinson will attend, is likely to feature ‘absolutely calamitous’ scenes of drunken thugs brawling outside Downing Street that will be used to discredit leaving the EU ‘for years to come.’
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday a ‘depressed’ Mr Farage pleaded: ‘I know if that happens, that is the day that Ukip becomes the BNP, that’s it, that is the moment.’
Mr Batten has hired Mr Robinson as an adviser on ‘Muslim rape gangs’.
And he has vowed to flank him on the march just two days before the crucial Commons vote on Brexit on December 11.
Mr Batten is the fourth leader to take the helm of the troubled party since Mr Farage stood down in 2016, but the former mouthpiece of the anti-EU group claims that his successor is turning Ukip into a poisonous ‘cult’.
‘Mr Gerard Batten seems to be pretty obsessed with the issue of Islam, not just Islamic extremism, but specifically, Islam,’ he said. ‘Ukip was not founded to be a party based on fighting a religious crusade.
‘He is also obsessed with this figure called Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
‘He is seen by some to be a great hero standing up and fighting for working class people but who has a pretty suspect record and who brings with him a group of people, I’m afraid, amongst with we see scuffles and violence. Many have criminal records – some pretty serious.
‘And all of its been dragging Ukip away from being an electoral party into being a party of street activism… this direction is catastrophic, particularly at a time when the great Brexit betrayal is upon us.’
Mr Batten tweeted tonight: ‘I hear that Nigel Farage has resigned from UKIP. Nigel & I were founder members of UKIP in 1993.
‘I have always given him full credit for his work in UKIP bringing about and winning the Referendum. However, I feel that he left UKIP in spirit after the Referendum.’
And Ukip deputy leader Mike Hookem was scathing about Mr Farage.
The Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire MEP said: ‘Nigel has made some catastrophic political decisions recently and he knows his star is fading fast among the membership and the public alike.
‘The loss of Nigel as a supporter will have an impact in sentimental terms, but in practical terms, he is no significant loss.’
Mr Hookem added that Mr Farage would be a hypocrite if he did not quit as an MEP.
‘What I really want to know is when Farage intends to resign his seat as an MEP?
‘In 2014, Nigel demanded all incoming Ukip MEPs sign a letter stating they would hand their seat back to the party if we were to leave. We all signed.
‘Nigel even went as far as demanding Diane James hand back her seat on leaving the party in 2016.
‘Therefore, he would be an utter hypocrite to keep his own seat on leaving the party, as have the others who have left.’
Gerard Batten appointed Mr Yaxley-Lennon as an adviser on rape gangs and prison reform. They are pictured in an undated photo
Mr Batten recently shared this photo of him next to Mr Yaxley-Lennon at a meeting. Mr Farage said this photo was the ‘final straw’. An earlier uncropped version showed the ex-EDL leader next to Daniel Thompson, a convicted armed kidnapper
Responding to Mr Farage’s resignation in a tweet, Mr Batten suggested he had ‘left Ukip in spirit’ following the Brexit referendum
Mr Farage’s announcement is likely to prompt a further wave of departures from Ukip, which has lost three MEPs in recent weeks over its new direction.
Many of those who opposed Mr Batten’s views had hoped that Mr Farage, who quit as leader after the Brexit referendum, could return if he was ousted.
On Monday Suzanne Evans, the former deputy chairman of Ukip, quit the party in protest at the leadership of Mr Batten and his association with Mr Robinson.
She said she had become ‘increasingly alarmed in recent months by the perverse direction’ Mr Batten had taken the party in.
MEPs including Patrick O’Flynn, Bill Etheridge and William Dartmouth have also all quit the party in recent months over the direction of travel within the party.
Ukip said the upcoming demonstration on Sunday (Dec 9) – at which Mr Batten is due to speak – has not been organised by the party, but a spokesman added: ‘Members are free to attend should they wish.’
Mr Batten denied moving Ukip to the extremes or opening its doors to racists, and told the BBC that Mr Robinson would help him turn the party into a ‘mass movement… a party for ordinary people’.
But in a statement released on Sunday, Ukip said it ‘does not endorse the appointment of Tommy Robinson in any advisory role’. As founder of the far-right EDL, current rules prevent him from joining the party.
Mr Farage discussed his decision to resign the party he was served for decades on his LBC radio show this evening
‘Tommy Robinson’: A former football thug backed by Trump’s attack dog
Former BNP yob Stephen Yaxley-Lennon founded the hateful English Defence League in 2009. He goes under the pseudonym ‘Tommy Robinson’.
Born in Luton in 1982, the former aircraft engineer lost his job in 2003 after a drunken brawl with a police officer and drifted into becoming a central figure in British far-Right extremism.
As a petty criminal he was in and out of prison for football violence and mortgage fraud, but claimed he was turning his back on criminality and violence in 2013 after being jailed for travelling on someone else’s passport to visit EDL fans in America.
Mr Farage has said the appointment of Robinson to Ukip signals the party has become a ‘party of street activism’. Mr Yaxley-Lennon is pictured at an EDL rally in London on May 22, 2013
He dramatically quit his anti-Islam mob group, claiming he would be a peaceful activist with the help of counter-radicalisation group the Quilliam Foundation but instead stepped up his poisonous rhetoric against Muslims.
He hit global fame after being locked up for contempt of court earlier this year – sparking an international ‘Free Tommy’ campaign backed by former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon, with a White House envoy lobbying the UK to release him.
Bannon branded Robinson ‘a solid guy’ and the ‘backbone’ of Britain and campaigned for him to be released from jail – sparking a rift with his ally Nigel Farage.
Robinson had been arrested outside Leeds Crown Court and jailed for 13 months after filming defendants on trial for rape while already on serving a suspended sentence for a similar offence.
He was later released on appeal, despite warnings he had risked collapsing the trial into evil Huddersfield grooming gangs.
But Robinson, 35, defended his actions, saying: ‘If I believe I’m morally right then I’m not bothered about what your law says.’
Last week hard-Right Ukip boss Gerard Batten sparked uproar by appointing Robinson his special political adviser on grooming gangs and prisons.
Farage told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I think if you had to find a working-class hero, this is not it. This is not it. Repeat prison sentences, etc.’
He denied moving Ukip to the extremes or opening its doors to racists, and told the BBC Mr Robinson would help him turn the party into a ‘mass movement… a party for ordinary people’.
He attacked Mr Farage on Monday, tweeting: ‘Nigel Farage failed to get the UKIP MEPs to even have a vote of no confidence in me last Wed in Brussels.
‘He failed to get a vote through at yesterday’s NEC. Now he’s reduced to doing the rounds in the MSM attacking me. My crime? UKIP isn’t disappearing under my leadership.’
But MEPs including Patrick O’Flynn, Bill Etheridge and William Dartmouth have all quit the party in recent months over the direction of travel within the party.
Mr Robinson is expected to feature prominently in a Brexit march in London two days before the Commons votes on the UK’s EU withdrawal deal at which Mr Batten is due to speak.
Ukip said the December 9 march had not been organised by the party, but added: ‘Members are free to attend should they wish.’
From several brushes with death to achieving his dream of leaving the EU: Nigel Farage’s astonishing career
Brexit has been the 54-year-old former trader’s dream ever since leaving the Conservatives in 1992 following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which deepened European integration.
Mr Farage has spent nearly three decades campaigning against the EU, a mission that culminated with the 2016 referendum.
He stepped down as party leader after the vote, explaining that ‘my political ambition has been achieved’.
He will stay on as deputy chairman of Leave Means Leave, a pro-Brexit campaign group.
Mr Farage was born in 1964 to an affluent family in Kent, southeast England. His father was a stockbroker and an alcoholic, and his parents divorced when he was five.
He was educated at one of England’s top private schools, Dulwich College in London, before becoming a commodities trader.
Mr Farage’s most recent scare came in 2010 when a light aircraft in which he was campaigning on election day crashed on take-off after a banner got caught in a propeller, but he escaped with broken bones and a punctured lung
He has had three brushes with death.
In 1985, he was hit by a car after a night out, suffered serious head and leg injuries. Months later, he had a cancerous testicle removed.
Once recovered, he married his nurse, and the couple had two sons. Following their divorce in 1997, Farage married second wife Kirsten Mehr, a German, with whom he has two daughters.
The couple has since announced they are separating.
Mr Farage’s most recent scare came in 2010 when a light aircraft in which he was campaigning on election day crashed on take-off after a banner got caught in a propeller, but he escaped with broken bones and a punctured lung.
Mr Farage during a campaign event on June 2, 2017
His political destiny was cast with the co-founding of UKIP in 1993, and with his election to the European Parliament in 1999, aged 35.
He became UKIP’s leader in 2006 before standing down in 2009 and then being re-elected the following year, stamping his charisma and anti-establishment humour on the party as it soared in popularity.
The party won the most British seats in European Parliament elections in 2014, although Farage himself never managed to get elected as a lawmaker at home despite repeated attempts.
With the party’s image and Farage becoming intertwined, and with the Brexit vote achieved, UKIP faced a vacuum of leadership and identity.
Much of Farage’s appeal lay with his ‘everyman’ image, the result of many hours spent swilling pints of ale down at the pub, cigarette in hand.
Voted ‘Briton of 2014’ by The Times, Farage maintained a high profile before the referendum but was kept out of the official pro-Brexit campaign, which feared his brand was too divisive.
The Brexit vote helped vindicate some of Farage’s methods, but came at a price.
‘During the referendum I said I wanted my country back… now I want my life back,’ Farage said when he resigned as leader two years ago.