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UK Politics

'I will get a grip': Nigel Farage hits back at criticism over his dominance of Ukip and 'bunch of enthusiastic amateurs' gibe

Leader hits back at former chief executive and vows to take direct control of the organisation of party

He is among Britain’s most ubiquitous political figures, but Nigel Farage is to take a lower public profile in an attempt to “get a grip” on the organisation of the UK Independence Party.

He announced the move following the departure of its chief executive, Will Gilpin, who warned Ukip was in danger of remaining a “bunch of enthusiastic amateurs” because of Mr Farage’s dominance of the party.

His surprise exit, after just eight months, reinforced suggestions that the party machine is struggling to keep pace with its consistent electoral advances in the last year.

Mr Farage, synonymous with Ukip for most voters, said: “I will have to do less politics, fewer interviews, fewer public meetings, fewer appearances and I will have to spend more time directly overseeing the jobs being done, because the problem we have had is one of non-delivery.”

Asked if that meant being less of a public figure, he replied: “I’m afraid I’m going to have to be. It’s not what I intended but we do need to get a grip on things. We do need to professionalise things and so I’m going to have to take a much more direct, managerial role.”

Hitting back at the departing chief executive, the Ukip leader told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Gilpin “couldn’t be more wrong”.

Mr Farage added: “The party does need professional management, but thus far we haven’t found the person to deliver it.”

He said he would assume greater control of the party’s organisation until he was confident it had the right managerial structure.

Following his departure Mr Gilipin, a former RAF pilot, said he was shocked the party “does his own thing without the party knowing where he is or what he is doing”.

He said: “The leap from being a small group of people who have fun and do what they want to being a professional political party was too much. Nigel has to have less power. There is no way around it.”

Ukip, which is consistently placed third in opinion polls ahead of the Liberal Democrats, faces the challenge of next year’s elections to the European Parliament in which it is expected to top the popular vote and send as many as 20 Euro MPs to Strasbourg. The following year it will attempt to secure its first parliamentary seat in the general election.

It lacks the resources and experience of the established parties, although donations to party coffers are increasing and Ukip membership has also risen from 19,000 to 30,000 in the last 12 months.

In a move to drive up the quality of its candidates for the European Parliament, Ukip introduced a “fruitcake test” to weed out supporters with eccentric views.

However, it has suffered embarrassment in recent weeks when the prominent Euro-MP, Godfrey Bloom, attacked the allocation of British aid to countries in “bongo bongo” land.

Stuart Wheeler, its treasurer, also suggested women were less successful on company boards because they were not as good as men at chess, bridge or poker.