UK Politics

UKIP's Suzanne Evans facing the sack after Farage comments

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Media captionUKIP's deputy chairwoman suggested "divisive" Nigel Farage should not lead the Out campaign for the EU referendum

UKIP's most senior woman is facing the sack after she told the BBC's Daily Politics party leader Nigel Farage was perceived as "very divisive".

Deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans has been dropped as a party spokesman and officials in the party have been told to have no further contact with her.

The instructions are contained in an internal party email seen by the BBC.

Ms Evans had been speaking about what role Mr Farage might play in the EU referendum campaign.

"I think Nigel is a very divisive character in terms of the way he is perceived," she said.

"He is not divisive as a person but the way he is perceived in having strong views that divide people."

She went on to say that she thought "somebody else" would front the out campaign in the in/out referendum, promised by 2017, but that Mr Farage should play a "significant part".

Mr Farage was "very angry" after he heard the comments, the BBC understands.

And in the internal UKIP email, press officers have been ordered to sever contact with Ms Evans.

Image caption A redacted version of the internal UKIP email

The email also instructs them to refuse any media interview requests for her and says "she is not to be offered as an official UKIP spokesman".

It ends saying, bluntly, that "no one is to brief SE or advise her on any issue."

'Tower of strength'

As deputy chairman she was in charge of writing UKIP's manifesto in the general election and was a prominent figure during the campaign.

When Mr Farage said he was resigning as leader after he failed to become and MP he anointed her as his successor, saying she had "emerged as an absolute tower of strength".

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Media captionGodfrey Bloom describes Nigel Farage as a "very ruthless operator" where critics have their membership card "chopped up"

A senior party figure has told me her comments were "ludicrous" and "crazy" and that Mr Farage believes it was a coded attack on him. The same figure also said he believes Ms Evans's position as deputy chairman is "increasingly untenable".

Ms Evans left her role as policy chief last month after a week of very public infighting kicked off by a personal attack on the leader from the party's economy spokesman Patrick O'Flynn.

He said Nigel Farage had become "snarling and aggressive".

Ms Evans spoke up in his defence, saying he was brave. She also called for several advisers around Mr Farage to resign.

Two advisers - Raheem Kassam and Matt Richardson - subsequently left their roles, although Mr Richardson has now returned as party secretary.

'Unelectable'

Ms Evans was unaware of the development when contacted by the BBC. She did not want to comment.

Mr Kassam pulled out of a planned interview on the BBC's Daily Politics on Friday while former MEP Godfrey Bloom, who did appear on the programme, described Mr Farage as "an autocratic general" who would not stand any criticism.

"Watching Suzanne Evans, it was bit like watching a 1938 politburo member criticising Joe Stalin," Mr Bloom, a former flatmate of Nigel Farage's who quit the party in 2013 after falling out with him, said.

"I don't know where she thought she was going with that. I know you chaps seem to buy this 'good old Nigel' with a pint image but believe me he's nothing like that. He's a very ruthless operator and even a hint of criticism from anybody and you have your membership card chopped up and that's how it's been for many years."

He added: "There's this terrible dichotomy we now have in UKIP: that is that they have a party leader who is extremely popular with the membership - and the strength of the party is with hardworking dedicated activists - and a party leader who sadly is unelectable."

"It is a rather autocratic organisation and you can get away with that when you're winning. Had he won his seat and had UKIP won some seats in Westminster you can get away with it, but it's very difficult to be an autocratic general when you're losing battles."

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