One of Peterborough’s MEPs has quit UKIP over the appointment of Tommy Robinson.
Patrick O’Flynn, MEP for the East of England, announced his decision on his own website today (Tuesday) following UKIP’s decision to appoint Mr Robinson, the former leader of anti-Islam group The EDL, as an advisor.
Mr O’Flynn - elected as MEP in 2014, and UKIP’s former economic spokesman- said he was now joining the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
In his statement, he said: “Since Gerard Batten became UKIP leader I have tried to use my influence to persuade him to maintain his focus on Brexit and abandon an apparent and growing fixation with Tommy Robinson.
“Recently the UKIP NEC came up with what I regarded as a common-sense decision in regard to the leader’s wish to waive a ban on former BNP and EDL members joining the party in respect of Mr Robinson. It decided to kick the issue into the long grass, beyond the deadline for Brexit being settled.
“Had Gerard followed the spirit of this decision it would have enabled us to concentrate on making a broad offer to Brexit voters disillusioned by the betrayal of Brexit by establishment parties. That would have enabled us to pile real and meaningful pressure on those parties, especially the Conservatives.
“Instead, at this vital stage of the battle for Brexit, he has done the opposite, appointing Robinson as his policy adviser and announcing a plan for UKIP to be centrally involved in a mass demonstration being planned by Robinson on the issue of Brexit. This is despite the last two street demonstrations attended by Gerard ending up with some demonstrators engaging in very ugly scenes.
“Without any mandate from the membership or the party’s elected ruling body to go down this path, Gerard is transforming what UKIP stands for and offers to voters. Many longstanding party members have already left as a result.
“Today I am joining them because I have reached the sorry conclusion that UKIP under its current direction and at this decisive moment has become an impediment to the Brexit campaigning that I have energetically pursued for many years.
“The key question in British politics now is which party are millions of sensible, moderate Brexit voters betrayed by establishment parties but wishing no tie-up with Tommy Robinson supposed to vote for? The answer, alas, is clearly not UKIP.
“So, like many on the communitarian wing of the party, I have decided to join the resurgent SDP, which campaigned for Brexit during the referendum and espouses broad and moderate pro-nation state political values that I – and I believe many of our voters from 2014 – will be delighted to endorse.
“This will, I believe, enable me in my remaining time as an MEP to make a bigger contribution to the cause I was elected to pursue and have devoted my time to since taking the Daily Express to a pro-Brexit position back in 2010.
“The mission of restoring the United Kingdom to the ranks of sovereign and independent countries is at a critical juncture, facing a massive establishment effort to derail it. I wish all Brexit campaigners the very best of British in the vital months ahead.”