UK Politics

UKIP MEP O'Flynn quits role after Farage attack

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Media captionNigel Farage: ''No longer do I bear any anger about what he (Patrick O'Flynn) said''

A UKIP MEP who launched a personal attack on Nigel Farage in the aftermath of the election has stood down from his frontbench role in the party.

Patrick O'Flynn has stepped down as economics spokesman and apologised to Mr Farage for calling him "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive".

The comments triggered a bout of bitter infighting within UKIP.

Another leading figure, Suzanne Evans, has said she is no longer UKIP's policy chief because her contract is ending.

Ms Evans, who has been tipped as a possible successor to Mr Farage, was a key figure in writing UKIP's election manifesto. She said she would remain in the unpaid role of deputy chairman.

Mr Farage, who has accepted Mr O'Flynn's apology, has insisted he has the overwhelming support of the party to stay on as leader in the aftermath of a fierce post-election row about the campaign and the party's future direction.

'Sincere regret'

Mr O'Flynn, a former Daily Express political journalist who was UKIP's chief spokesman during the campaign, provoked the row after telling The Times Mr Farage risked turning the party - which won only one seat despite getting four million votes - into a "personality cult" and an "absolutist monarchy".

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Image caption Suzanne Evans' role within UKIP is also changing

The comments highlighted a divide within UKIP over Mr Farage's decision to remain as party leader following his failure to get elected as an MP in Thanet South.

The UKIP leader said before the election that he would quit if he failed to make it to Westminster but changed his mind after the party's ruling body urged him to stay, claiming the election had been a big success for the party.

In his resignation statement, Mr O'Flynn said: "I would like to express to colleagues my sincere regret at going public with my frustrations about the turn of events following polling day."

The MEP for the East of England said his comments about Mr Farage had been a "fragment of wider passage" but added: "I should have known better than anyone what use would be made of phrases that were both unfair and unkind."

Mr O'Flynn added that he wanted to spend the coming months helping UKIP's campaign for the UK to quit the EU.

'Line drawn'

In response, Mr Farage told the BBC that he had "drawn a line" under the episode and suggested the party had "never been more united". Mr Farage said he had been "appalled" by the remarks but it took a "big man" to apologise and the row was now over.

"I was initially appalled," he said. "I couldn't believe it. We had a conversation this morning and as we spoke the tone got gentler. I understood he made a bad mistake, he understood he made a bad mistake and we move on from here.

"Bad things have been said but we now have drawn a line on this and it's all behind us.

"I think UKIP has never been more united around me."


By Political Correspondent Robin Brant

Patrick O'Flynn has gone.

His departure from UKIP's top team was inevitable. You can't attack Nigel Farage in such a personal way, via the front page of the Times, and expect to stay in post.

But note his statement offered "sincere regret at going public with my frustrations". Going public, not having the frustrations in the first place.

I understand Mr O'Flynn thought long and hard about making his intervention last week. It wasn't an off the cuff moment.

His contrition is genuine but I don't think he has changed his mind.

Some senior figures think his departure is bad for the party. Deputy Chairman Suzanne Evans - a prominent figure during the election campaign - said she is "very sorry indeed' to see him go. A senior party figure also told me: "I cant think who else could take his place and do such a good job."

Mr Farage has insisted he has the backing of nearly everyone in the party to stay on as leader in the run-up to the referendum on the UK's future in the EU, due to take place by the end of 2017.

Senior figures such as the party's MP Douglas Carswell, deputy leader Paul Nuttall and MEP Steven Woolfe have backed him but urged him to take a "short break" from politics over the summer.

Ms Evans said she was sorry about Mr O'Flynn's decision to stand down, describing him as one of the party's "hardest-working MPs".

The two were UKIP's chief spokespeople during the campaign, hosting the party's daily media briefings.

Hours later, Ms Evans clarified her own future as policy chief - a role she took on in January. "It has been a great privilege to work with UKIP for the past four months to produce the 2015 general election manifesto," she said.

"I was delighted with the way it was received, especially by party members and supporters. While my contract for that work comes to an end next week, I remain in my voluntary post as deputy chairman."

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