'The sheer level of support for me is astonishing': Nigel Farage remains defiant in the face of Ukip civil war

Ukip leader blames anonymous figure within the party for whipping up row and accuses Tories of trying to destabilise the party

Click to follow

Nigel Farage has boasted that support for him from within Ukip is “astonishing” and has “never been greater” as he rejected calls on him to resign for the second time in a week.

He pointed the finger of blame at one anonymous figure in Ukip for whipping up a row over his leadership that has plunged the party into civil war this week after he withdrew his resignation and was re-appointed as leader.

Mr Farage accused the individual of cowardice who was “agitating” for change and challenged him to unite behind him as leader or quit the party. He claimed the row was being driven by a Conservative agenda to "destabilise" Ukip in the run up to the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

He was speaking after appearing on BBC Question Time last night, when he defiantly rebuffed calls on him to quit, saying it would be a “massive, massive mistake” to have a leadership contest so soon after the election.

Nigel Farage QT.png
Nigel Farage appeared on Question Time, claiming support for him from within Ukip was 'phenomenal'

He said he “did not recognise” Ukip election campaign manager Patrick O’Flynn’s description of him as a “snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive man”in a newspaper interview.

Speaking from Westerham this morning, Mr Farage said even Mr O’Flynn was “100 per cent supported me” – as was most of his party, he claimed.

“Every single one of our major donors came out in support of me yesterday: the National Executive is united, the leader of our group in the House of Lords, the leader of our MEPs, the Scottish committee, the Welsh committee, the east of England committee,” he said.

“I've never had support like it. There is one senior figure in Ukip briefing every single day, consistently and he's now moved on to there must be a leadership election and that individual must make his mind up - whether his future is with Ukip or not.

He added: “What is clear is the sheer level of support for me in Ukip - frankly it's astonishing and to read the ludicrous headlines in some of today's newspapers makes you realises that actually, this is really about a Conservative an attempt by the Conservative lobby to destabilise Ukip and use one or two people within.

“It's very difficult to get more support than I’ve got and even Patrick O'flynn, who made some personal comments that weren't particularly pleasant, said he 100% supported me.

“There is one person in Ukip agitating for 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?”

Yesterday critics queued up to call for his departure, arguing that the time had come for a less confrontational figure to take over at the helm. There was growing backing in senior ranks for Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, to succeed him following the party’s failure to achieve a breakthrough at Westminster.

The civil war was triggered by Mr O’Flynn’s explosive comments during which he warned the party was in danger of becoming a “personality cult”.

One of the unnamed aides he is understood to have had in his sights, the party secretary Matthew Richardson, resigned. Shortly afterwards Raheem Kassam, whose contract was to end on 31 May, quit early as a senior adviser to the Ukip leader.

Mr Kassam attacked Mr O’Flynn, Ukip's economics spokesman, as “wholly unprofessional”, claiming he had “some issues” and should resign as a party spokesman.

Last night Mr Farage attempted to downplay the row between figures such as Mr O'Flynn and Mr Kassam, claiming the pair were "letting off steam".

“I was disappointed that a member of our team said this, but look, general elections you're under a huge amount of pressure and particularly it's like a boiler room, a pressure cooker,” he said.

“I'm sure the others would agree, and we maintained discipline as a party extraordinarily well during this general election compared with the past. The election's over, people are letting off steam, and we've seen one or two people fighting personal wars against each other.”

There was no sign the row would stop there, however, with Mr Kassam this morning accusing Mr O'Flynn of bringing the party into "major national disrepute" over yesterday's attack and also hit out at Mr Carswell.

"I feel a bit of responsibility in the sense that the characters who brought this up, namely Douglas Carswell and Patrick O'Flynn, are acting on purely selfish terms," he told the Today programme.

"They saw me as Nigel's sort of body armour and that if they went after me that they would get to Nigel.

"These people are not acting in the best interests of the party, what they are doing is bringing the party into major national disrepute and I don't think they have a place in the party."