Nigel Farage challenges Ukip MP Douglas Carswell: back me as leader or quit the party

Farage did not name Carswell in his attack but aides made clear that it was the former Tory MP he had in his sights

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Nigel Farage has launched a bitter attack against the party’s only MP, accusing him of anonymously orchestrating a plot to remove him as leader.

With no sign of Ukip’s internal turmoil abating, Mr Farage claimed there was only “one person” in the party “agitating for a change and for a leadership election” who hadn’t had the “courage to break cover”.

Mr Farage did not name Douglas Carswell in his attack but aides made clear that it was the former Tory MP who defected to Ukip last year he had in his sights.

Raheem Kassam, who was forced out of his job as a senior adviser to Mr Farage on Thursday, blamed Mr Carswell – along with MEP Patrick O’Flynn – for stirring up dissent and trying oust the leader.

Douglas Carswell has ruled himself out of running for the Ukip party leadership

“The characters who brought this up, namely Douglas Carswell and Patrick O’Flynn, are acting on purely selfish terms,” he said. “These people are not acting in the best interests of the party… they are bringing the party into major national disrepute and I don’t think they have a place in the party.”

Mr Farage was widely mocked for resigning from the leadership after failing to win the South Thanet seat, only to be reinstated three days later at the urging of the party’s executive committee.

Mr Carswell is understood to believe that Mr Farage should have stuck to his word and either stood in a future leadership election or walked away from leadership.

The row intensified on the day that one of Ukip’s former MEPs, Ashley Mote, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of fraudulently claiming almost £500,000 in European Parliament expenses. The 79-year-old, who was expelled from the party for benefit fraud in 2007, is expected to be given a custodial sentence.

Mr Farage told Sky News that he had the backing of the vast majority of those in Ukip to continue as leader. “The National Executive unanimously support me, the leader of the MEP group supports me, the leader of the House of Lords group supports me,” he said.

“I have had every single major donor, all of our biggest donors ever in the history of Ukip, all publicly came out yesterday. It’s very difficult to get more support than I have got.

“Even Patrick O’Flynn, who made some personal comments that weren’t particularly pleasant, said he 100 per cent supports me as leader. There is one person within Ukip agitating for a change and for a leadership election. He hasn’t had the courage to break cover, but he must make his mind up. Is his future with Ukip or not?”

Mr Carswell has denied rumours that he is set to quit Ukip – a move which would block the party from claiming over £600,000 in public funding it is due to get for Parliamentary activities.

But Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe backed Mr O’Flynn, who said the party should not move to the hard-right American Tea Party stance that saw Mr Farage turn into a “thin-skinned, snarling, aggressive” politician.

“What was absolutely correct about Patrick’s analysis of this, is that sometimes the tone in our party had started to slip to something much more negative and that’s not what the public wanted.

“It’s certainly not what the party members wanted, it’s not what people standing on the doorsteps and knocking on the doorsteps like myself actually wanted to see.”