An election to decide who should lead Ukip would be a “massive, massive mistake”, the party’s leader Nigel Farage has said.
Speaking after a day of recriminations and anonymous briefing between different factions of the party over his leadership, Mr Farage argued he had “phenomenal” support from his own activists.
“The level of support for me in the party is phenomenal and, frankly, to go through a leadership contest at a time when Cameron says he's renegotiating our relationship with the European Union would be a massive, massive mistake,” he told an audience on the BBC's Question Time programme.
The claim is a stark contrast to Mr Farage’s statements last week in which he indicated he would step down, a move that would have triggered such a leadership contest.
Mr Farage had pledged to quit as leader if he lost his battle to become the MP for Thanet South. He subsequently announced his resignation but then reversed his decision after a meeting of Ukip’s national executive.
The party showed signs of sliding into an all-out civil war over Mr Farage’s leadership yesterday.
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
Major party donor Stuart Wheeler told BBC Radio 5Live that the leader should resign and take part in a leadership contest if he wanted to remain in his post.
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 came 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.
There followed a series of retaliatory briefings against Mr O’Flynn and suggestions that a close advisor to Mr Farage had lost his job.
Ukip dramatically increased its vote share at the 2015 election but ended up with fewer seats than it started with. Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP to retain his seat, has ruled himself out of any potential leadership contest.Reuse content