Ukip’s most prominent female politician Suzanne Evans has been sacked as a media spokesman after she gave a television interview saying Nigel Farage was seen by voters as a “very divisive character”.
Evans, who was formerly an ally of Farage and was at one point anointed by him as acting leader, incurred the displeasure of her boss after she made the comments on the BBC’s Daily Politics.
“I think Nigel is a very divisive character in terms of the way he is perceived,” she said. “He’s not divisive as a person but the way he is perceived is as having very strong views that divide people. So in that sense I think he is right. I think it will be someone else who actually fronts [the EU exit campaign].”
On Thursday afternoon, the Ukip press office then issued a “directive” to sever contact with Evans and refused to offer her up as a media spokesman on any issue. She was not to be briefed or advised on any subject.
A senior source at Ukip’s HQ said on Thursday afternoon that Evans’s position had become untenable, that her comments were “surprising and disappointing”, and that Farage was “pretty angry and perplexed”.
The source said: “I think that, speaking to a number of people, Suzanne’s position is now untenable. I would suspect she probably thinks that as well. In no other party would you have such a situation. It would be akin to Theresa May going on television and saying she thought the prime minister was a deeply divisive figure.
“Theresa May wouldn’t expect to be in her job three hours later. That would be tantamount to a resignation speech … Everybody needs to understand that that sort of behaviour and comment in public and on the television is just unacceptable.”
An email was then leaked to the BBC showing the directive to the Ukip press office not to contact Evans again.
Evans is one of Ukip’s best-known female politicians and was named by Farage as his preferred choice to succeed him as acting leader after the election, before he reversed his decision four days later.
The order to bar Evans from appearing in the media is yet another twist in the Ukip wars that have been engulfing the party since the election. The infighting started after Farage went back on a promise to resign as leader, annoying some within the party who feared he would be too toxic to persuade half of the voting public to leave the EU.
During the battle that followed, Evans, Douglas Carswell – Ukip’s only MP – and MEP Patrick O’Flynn were accused by Farage’s former senior adviser Raheem Kassam of being among those working to undermine his leadership.
At one point, O’Flynn even claimed Farage had become “snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive” because he was being influenced by “poisonous advisers”.
All denied being part of an attempt to oust Farage but Evans was stripped of her policy role and O’Flynn resigned as economics spokesman.
During the BBC interview on Thursday, Evans also suggested Farage was badly advised when he brought up the policy of excluding foreigners with HIV from Britain during a TV election debate.
Carswell has previously described Farage’s comments as “plain wrong”. Evans said: “I think he probably could have put it in a slightly more collegiate way, a way that perhaps could have brought more people on board.
“It was perhaps a very stark, stark way of putting it, but it is an issue that is important and I absolutely would defend him on it ... Those of us who feel he is being badly advised simply have to perhaps be braver in saying as and when we think he is being badly advised. But I think Nigel himself has certainly learnt from this.”
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 18th June 2015 18.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010