The leader of the UK Independence Party's youth wing has been stripped of his post by the party leadership after voicing his support for gay marriage in an interview on national radio.
Olly Neville, who was appointed as chairman of Young Independence (YI) at the end of last year, was told by Ukip's chairman that comments in support of gay marriage were "completely at odds with the party's policy" and risked "seriously setting back the party's current growth".
Mr Neville confirmed that he had been asked to stand down on Tuesday night. Ukip insisted he was removed for "misrepresenting Ukip policy" and not for his views on gay marriage.
In an email seen by i, the Ukip chairman, Stephen Crowther, told Mr Neville: "The National Executive Committee has resolved that you should not continue to act as interim chairman of YI, owing to the problems regarding party policy and public statements about which we have corresponded over the past week." In an earlier email, sent on 2 January, after Mr Neville appeared on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, Mr Crowther said the youth leader had been "politically inept".
Mr Neville told i his party was on "the wrong side of history" on gay marriage. He said he felt "bullied" by emails circulated among senior party members. In one message he received on 4 January, Michael McGough, a member of the party executive, wrote: "It begs the question, given our now high profile, whether those in public fronting office should be assessed/vetted as per [prospective parliamentary candidates]. Olly clearly has an agenda that is not Ukip's; or he is stupid."
Mr Crowther said Mr Neville had been removed because he "did not appreciate the responsibilities attached to being an official of the party". He added that Mr Neville had never been officially elected as YI's chairman because an election had been held before the party's executive committee had established formal rules.
"Your stated position on gay marriage is quite simply completely at odds with the party's policy. Our policy on gay marriage is extremely important to us at this time.
"We have said specifically and repeatedly that we are opposed to the Government's proposals on this, and that the Prime Minister has got it spectacularly wrong.
"For you to say precisely the opposite, on national radio, as the representative of Young Independence, is absolutely unacceptable and risks seriously setting back the party's current growth. I have no option but to take this further."
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