Ukip is sliding into all-out civil war over whether Nigel Farage should remain its leader after he made an unexpectedly swift return to the post.
Party donor Stuart Wheeler told BBC Radio 5Live that Mr Farage should resign and be subject to a full leadership election rather than simply returning without challenge.
Senior sources also reportedly told the Press Association news agency and BBC News that the party leader should "take a break" and have to stand for re-election, respectively.
The demand comes after Ukip’s economics spokesperson Patrick O’Flynn told The Times newspaper that Mr Farage had transformed into a “snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive” man after the election.
Meanwhile Raheem Kassam, an advisor closely associated with Mr Farage, denied he was “fleeing the country” after announcing that he was taking a foreign holiday amid the party fracas.
Mr Farage stepped down as leader, as pledged, after he lost the race to become the MP for Thanet South.
But after presenting his resignation to Ukip’s national executive he was apparently rebuffed and told to remain as leader.
The decision seems to have angered critics of Mr Farage, who have have piled in. Godfrey Bloom, a former MEP who left the party last year, told BBC News that the leader was “capable of some abrasive behaviour” and “not a team player”.
He went on to endorse the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, as leader. Mr Carswell has previously ruled himself out of any leadership bid.
But the group around Mr Farage's inner circle has been quick to hit back at critics.
This morning sources close to Mr Farage briefed journalists with highly personal attacks against Mr O’Flynn, telling The Spectator magazine that the economics spokesperson has “personal problems and this may be the manifestation of them”.
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
1/8 1993: Alan Sked forms Ukip
History professor Alan Sked had been active in anti-EU politics for a while beore he founded Ukip in 1993. He resigned from the party after the 1997 election, concerned that it was attracting far-right members, and has been critical of Ukip since. Picture: Reuters
2/8 2005: Kilroy defects
Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk founded Veritas in 2005, after a failed bid to become leader, and took many of Ukip's elected members with him. But the party slowly lost its popularity and didn't put forward any candidates in the last election. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty REUTERS KD/RUS
3/8 2010: Farage becomes leader, again
Farage had led Ukip from 2006 until 2009, when he stood down to fight against the Speaker, John Bercow, for his Buckingham seat. He failed to win the election and returned to lead the party in November 2010. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
4/8 2010: Ukip fights for election
Nigel Farage was injured in a plane crash on polling day in the 2010 general election, but his party increased its success in the votes. It fielded 572 candidates and took 3.1% of the vote, though failed to win any seats. REUTERS/Darren Staples
5/8 2013: Eastleigh gains
Ukip's candidate Diane James got the highest ever number of votes for any candidate from the party, but was beaten by the Liberal Democrats. The surge in support gave Ukip confidence ahead of local and European elections later in the year. Picture: Reuters
6/8 2013: Bloom kicked out
Godfrey Bloom, who served as an Ukip MEP from 2004 to 2014, had the whip withdrawn in 2013 after sexist comments and an attack on a journalist. He sat as an independent MEP until 2014, when he ended his term in office. Picture: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
7/8 2014: European election success
Ukip got a higher proportion of the vote than any other party in 2014's European elections, adding 11 new MEPs and taking its total to 24. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
8/8 2014: Carswell defects
Douglas Carswell defected from Ukip at the end of August, and was followed by Mark Reckless at the end of September, who resigned from the Tories amid rumours of many more defections to come. Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville
After the briefing came to light Mr O’Flynn told Sky News that Mr Farage was his “political hero”, in an apparent change of rhetoric.
“If anyone thinks or supposes that I’m planning some kind of coup again Nigel they couldn’t be more wrong. He is my political hero and will remain so,” he told the channel.
Whenever I go on holiday, certain websites report I'm "fleeing the country". So just a heads up, people... I'm "fleeing the country"!— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) May 12, 2015
He went one to criticise “a couple of people in [the leader’s] inner circle, to use a term, who are wrong-uns” and said Mr Farage should never have pledged to stand down as leader.
Ukip's director Steven Stanbury appeared on the BBC's Daily Politics programme this afternoon and called for the party to conduct itself more professionally.
“The four million who voted for us ... expect a more professional approach and not the selfish, self-indulgent attacks that we are seeing,” he said.
Ukip achieved a record vote share in the general election last week but ended up with fewer MPs than it went into the contest with.
Nigel Farage failed to win his target constituency of Thanet South after a hard-fought contest, with only Douglas Carswell, a former Conservative defector, retaining his seat.Reuse content