Ukip leadership hopeful Steven Woolfe admits failing to declare drink-drive charge

The MEP has been the front-runner in the race to succeed Nigel Farage as party leader

Monday 01 August 2016 19:37 BST
Mr Woolfe has also denied allegations that he allowed his membership to lapse in 2014
Mr Woolfe has also denied allegations that he allowed his membership to lapse in 2014 (Getty)

Ukip leadership hopeful Steven Woolfe has admitted failing to declare a drink-driving conviction when he stood for a police and crime commissioner post.

The MEP, who has been the front-runner in the race to succeed Nigel Farage as party leader, said he “forgot about the conviction” when he stood in the Greater Manchester PCC election in 2012, in a possible breach of electoral law.

PCC candidates must declare convictions for which they could have received a prison sentence, and it is a criminal offence to make a false statement on nomination papers, the Electoral Commission website says.

He told The Huffington Post he was fined £350 and disqualified from driving for nine months after being caught drunk in charge of a scooter in 2002.

“I made a foolish mistake 14 years ago which I regret. As the years went on I forgot about the conviction as I got on with my life,” he said.

“The conviction was a spent conviction in November 2012 and not in my mind when I stood for police and crime commissioner in Greater Manchester.

“It was also a spent conviction when I stood for the European elections in 2014 and general election in 2015.”

It comes after Mr Woolfe blamed a technical blunder for missing Ukip's leadership nominations deadline, leaving his bid in the hands of party officials.

Mr Woolfe insists he is still in the race despite overshooting the deadline of noon on Sunday by 17 minutes, and has left the door open for a legal challenge if party officials block him from standing.

The party made it clear there would be no final decision until the completion of vetting procedures on Tuesday.

He said he had been on the phone with a Ukip official at 11.56am, “pressing the button” to submit the application, and sent photographs to prove it.

“I did feel like I was in a scene from Little Britain's 'computer says no',” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Asked if he would pursue legal action if his application was rejected, he replied: “I hope it wouldn't come to that. Hopefully they recognise that everybody in the country now sometimes looks at their computer screens and screams at it when something is not working, but we have a system in place that didn't seem to work properly that day.”

Mr Woolfe has also denied allegations that he allowed his membership to lapse in 2014, which raised issues about his eligibility under controversial new party rules.

Former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans, who was suspended from the party earlier this year after repeated clashes with Mr Farage, said Mr Woolfe is “probably ineligible”.

She told Sky News: “Given the membership, given his nomination paper, it's not looking good for him. I think he's probably ineligible.”

She added: “If toast is the word you want to use, then perhaps he's going to be toast.”

Mr Woolfe, the party's immigration policy chief, had been favourite to take the top job, but Lisa Duffy and MEPs Bill Etheridge and Jonathan Arnott have also been pushing for the crown.

Huntingdonshire councillor Ms Duffy has pledged to heal factional fighting in the party and is backed by Ms Evans.

Mr Farage, who announced he was quitting after the Leave victory in the EU referendum, said Ukip members should vote for the candidate who will best represent the party “on the big media stages” and around the country.

He urged his successor to “bypass” Ukip's national executive committee (NEC), claiming the governing body contains “total amateurs” who have acted as a “barrier to radical change and modernisation”.

Writing on the Breitbart News website, Mr Farage said: “Ukip now needs to be patient and play the long game, and to live without its velvet-collared, beer-drinking, cigarette-wielding cartoonist's dream.

'I Want My Life Back' - Farage Resigns as UKIP Leader

“I will not attempt to influence the choice of Ukip members in this contest but urge them to vote for the person who will represent the party best on the big media stages and out there around the country, where it really matters.”

He said of the NEC: “Many of its current crop are among the lowest grade of people I have ever met. To them, being a member of the governing body of Britain's third-largest political party is the equivalent of scaling Everest.

“People with no qualification in business or politics make the ultimate decisions of whom should be our candidate at a by-election – or whether the former disgraced Tory MP Neil Hamilton should be given a route back to public life via being elected as an Assembly Member in Wales!”

He added: “The new leader of Ukip should bypass the vanity of such people and make big decisions about Ukip's future via direct polling of the membership.”

He pledged his “wholehearted support” to the winner if they “have the courage to transform the management of our party”.

Press Association

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