East of England MEP denies plans for a UKIP leadership challenge

Nigel Farage campaigning for UKIP in Peterborough City Centre ENGEMN00120131004160941
Nigel Farage campaigning for UKIP in Peterborough City Centre ENGEMN00120131004160941
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An East of England Ukip MEP has said he might have burnt his bridges after openly criticising Nigel Farage - but he insisted he is not mounting a leadership challenge.

A Ukip MEP has said he might have burnt his bridges after openly criticising Nigel Farage - but he insisted he is not mounting a leadership challenge.

Patrick O’Flynn, in an interview at his office in Peterborough, said he stood by earlier comments that Mr Farage had been badly advised and become an “aggressive and snarling” figure who had lurched too far to the right.

But he said he believed that if he could rediscover his previous “ebullient” character, Mr Farage was still the best man to lead the party.

He distanced himself from betting tycoon Stuart Wheeler and party treasurer Hugh Williams, who have both called from Mr Farage to stand down.

Mr O’Flynn said: “I may well have burnt my bridges but it had to be said.

“I’m not in politics to pursue personal seniority but to persuade the British public that we are good enough to govern ourselves away from the EU.

“I can’t imagine I’ve done myself any favours within the party but I’m trying to make the point that the British people will soon face the biggest choice in several generations over the EU referendum.

“In order to maximise our chance in that vote, we need a leadership which broadens and doesn’t narrow our political horizons.

“There are a couple of advisers who are pushing Nigel in the wrong direction both in terms of policy and style of leadership.”

Mr O’Flynn said his comments were not, “in the main”, an attack on Mr Farage - although he said some of his decision-making had been flawed.

“To be fair, it is a direct attack on some of his decisions after polling day and in the run-up to it,” he said.

“He made a totally unnecessary pledge to stand down if he didn’t win Thanet South - I wasn’t consulted about that, I wish he hadn’t said it and it began a pretty unedifying sequence of events.”

He said he had personally tried to dissuade Mr Farage from standing down on election night but “could not get through” on the phone.

“The next thing I knew, he was standing there on the clifftops, standing down and we saw how that unravelled.

“A couple of senior people in the party were treated shoddily as a result of the totally misconceived way it was handled.”

Asked what he would like to see change, Mr O’Flynn said: “I want to see Nigel back to the ebullient, optimistic character he was - reaching out and using his talent to connect with people from every background.

“He shouldn’t be turned into a narrow, aggressive, snarling political figure with these tinges placed upon him by people with a hard-right, US

Tea Party-style agenda.

“We need to be at the centre-right of British politics.

“We also need a greater plurality of voices.

“We have some experienced and talented people, both elected and party officials, and Nigel needs to be consulting them more as part of a consultative and collegiate leadership style.”