Senior Ukip figure quits party over leader’s association with Tommy Robinson
The former deputy chairwoman of Ukip has become the latest high-profile figure to quit the party in protest at the leadership of Gerard Batten and his association with Tommy Robinson.
Suzanne Evans said she had become “increasingly alarmed in recent months by the perverse direction” Mr Batten was taking the Eurosceptic party, the day after its national executive voted against a motion of no confidence in him.
Mr Batten has come under fire within the party in recent weeks for taking Mr Robinson, the co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL), on as an adviser.
Last month former leader Nigel Farage said he would write to Ukip’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) to demand a vote of no confidence to remove Mr Batten as leader, and accused him of damaging both the party and the Brexit cause.
But on Sunday Ukip said its NEC had voted “overwhelmingly” against a motion of no confidence.
Announcing her decision, Ms Evans said that “the NEC and Ukip MEPs might be willing to turn a blind eye to the obvious attempts by Gerard and Tommy Robinson to orchestrate a ‘Momentum-style’ takeover of Ukip, but I am not”.
She said: “I was hoping, yesterday, that sense would prevail; that Ukip’s National Executive Committee would call for a ‘no confidence’ vote in Batten, so the party could be prevented from taking a devastatingly wrong turn.
“But if even those elected to represent ordinary members won’t protect Ukip from a leader who appears hell bent on destroying it from within, then there is no hope left.”
In a statement on Sunday, Ukip said that it “does not endorse the appointment of Tommy Robinson in any advisory role”, adding: “He is not a Ukip member and through his associations he is barred from joining Ukip.”
Mr Batten previously defended his decision to give Mr Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a role advising him on rape gangs and prison reform, describing the EDL co-founder as “courageous”.
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.”