Nigel Farage has challenged an anonymous senior Ukip figure, who has been quoted as wanting to oust him as leader, to quit the party if he cannot be more supportive.
The Ukip leader said there was only one man within Ukip who wanted a new contest, and that he should make a decision about his future in the party.
“There is one person within Ukip agitating for a 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?” Farage told Sky News.
His remarks will prompt speculation that he is talking about Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, who has disagreed with Farage over issues such as preventing foreigners with HIV from migrating to the UK and whether to accept £3.25m in public funding for the party’s parliamentary office.
Carswell has ruled out wanting the Ukip leadership himself and publicly backs Farage’s leadership. However, he is the favoured choice of Stuart Wheeler, a multimillionaire donor of the party, who called on Thursday for Farage to make way for a “quieter” candidate.
Turmoil erupted in Ukip after Patrick O’Flynn, the party’s campaign director, gave an interview saying Farage had been led astray by an inner circle of advisers, which had made him become “snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive”.
After a power struggle, it emerged two of Farage’s key allies, Raheem Kassam, his chief of staff, and Matthew Richardson, the party secretary, would no long work for the party.
Farage’s problems intensified throughout Thursday as it became clear there was a camp within Ukip who were not just gunning for his advisers but thought he should face a leadership contest. Only Wheeler and the party’s co-treasurer, Hugh Williams, openly called for Farage to leave.
But an anonymous senior source told the BBC on Thursday that the decision of Farage to remain without a contest is “a tragedy of self-destuction”, saying “Patrick is not alone” in his criticisms of the way the party is led.
In an appearance on Question Time on Thursday night, Farage attributed the row between competing factions within Ukip to people “blowing off steam” after the election and ruled out standing down as leader.
But speaking again on Friday morning, he issued the challenge to his anonymous critics. He also suggested it had been masterminded by some in the Conservative party who do not want him to be the face of the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union.
“To read the ludicrous headlines in some of today’s newspapers makes you realise that actually this is really about a Conservative attempt and a Conservative lobby to try and destabilise Ukip and to use one or two people within who are disaffected,” he said.
Kassam, formerly one of Farage’s closest aides, went much further than his ex-boss in calling for Carswell and O’Flynn to consider their positions. He told the Today programme: “The characters who brought this up, namely Douglas Carswell and Patrick O’Flynn, are acting on purely selfish terms and they saw me as Nigel’s sort of body armour and that if they went after me they’d get to Nigel. These people are not acting in the best interests of the party. What they’re doing is bringing the party into major national disrepute and I don’t think they have a place in the party.”
This article was written by Rowena Mason and Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Friday 15th May 2015 12.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010