Ukip leadership hopeful Steven Woolfe is in a "serious condition" this afternoon following an altercation at a meeting of party MEPs in Strasbourg.
A spokesperson for Ukip said the MEP, currently the favourite to lead the party, collapsed outside European Parliament and was taken to hospital where he is undergoing tests.
Various sources alleged he was punched in the the head by a colleague. Initial reports said doctors were treating the politician for bleeding on the brain but tweets from party members suggest his condition is not as serious as was initially believed.
The 48-year-old’s journey into politics differs greatly from many of his counterparts. Mr Woolfe hails from a northern, working-class background: he was born in Moss Side, in Manchester and grew up on a council estate. His wife and family still live in Chester.
Of his upbringing, he told Breitbart in July: “I was born in Manchester, grew up in Moss Side, and then when they knocked our house down we moved to Burnage. We lived with grandma for a while, waited for years to get a council house and then we got a council house in Withington. It’s all pretty much on the same council estate - my mum still lives there, my brother still lives there.“
He will turn 49 tomorrow.
The rise and rise of Ukip – the new party of the protest voter
Mr Woolfe is Ukip’s spokesman on Migration and Financial Affairs and MEP for the North West.
He began his career as a barrister, graduating from Aberystwyth University with a Bachelor of Laws and continuing his studies at the Inns of Court School of Law in London.
Mr Woolfe then moved to the financial sector to work in consultancy before launching his political career in 2010 when the incumbent Ukip leader Nigel Farage selected him as one of his senior spokespeople during his leadership campaign. In 2014, he was elected MEP for the North West.
He ran to become the MP for Stockport in 2015, finishing in third place behind Labour MP Ann Coffey, who won the seat, and Daniel Hamilton of the Conservatives.
He played a prominent role in the party’s European Union referendum campaign – and was viewed by many as an impressive media performer. He had celebrated the divisive referendum victory for Leave at Manchester town hall, where the official count was taking place, in the early hours of June 24.
But his rapid ascent to the top of the Eurosceptic party’s ranks came to a sudden halt in August after he submitted his leadership application 17 minutes late. Ukip’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), ruled he was ineligible as a result and barred him from standing in the election.
Mr Woolfe said he was “extremely disappointed” and criticised the party’s NEC for “confirming members’ fears that it is neither effective nor professional” in the way it governs the party. He added: “They have failed to accept that there were serious issues with the application system despite providing evidence that attempts of submission were made before the deadline. The NEC deny this is the fault of the UKIP system. Furthermore, highly confidential information about me held in party documents has been leaked to the press and the NEC has not sought to investigate this gross breach of privacy.”
But with the resignation on Tuesday of Diane James – nominated as the new Ukip chief just 18 ago – Mr Woolfe had thrown his hat into the ring once more. Mr Woolfe, who also had the backing of the millionaire businessman Arron Banks, is viewed by many in the party’s ranks as the ideal candidate to persuade voters in the Labour heartlands to vote purple.
There are unconfirmed reports fellow MEPs had accused Mr Woolfe of considering defecting to the Conservative party after being persuaded by the policies Theresa May set out at the Conservative Party Conference.
Mr Woolfe has put social mobility at the heart of his policies as he set out his stall for Ukip leadership, telling The International Business Times in July: “The one thing I can say to the people of the North and the Midlands who voted Brexit and who are tired of the Labour Party leaving them behind, Ukip is now the party for you and your new home.
"We did it for immigration, we did it for the referendum and now we're going to do it for social mobility too.”
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