UK Politics

UKIP insists Evans not frozen out amid e-mail dispute

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

UKIP has rejected suggestions Suzanne Evans has been dropped as a spokeswoman amid a row over comments she made about party leader Nigel Farage.

An internal e-mail leaked to the BBC suggested that Ms Evans had been frozen out, with officials told to have no further contact with her.

This came after she said in a TV interview that Mr Farage was perceived as "very divisive" by the electorate.

But the party said the e-mail had been sent "without proper authority".

The BBC's political correspondent Robin Brant said two UKIP MEPs had expressed concerns about the party's treatment of Ms Evans, the party's deputy chair who was in charge of its general election manifesto, one describing the situation as "utterly bizarre".

Another well known MEP has told our correspondent "we should support all our team and not treat them badly in the full eye of the media".

Speaking about what role Mr Farage might play in the EU referendum campaign, Ms Evans said "Nigel is a very divisive character in terms of the way he is perceived".

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

Image caption A redacted version of the internal UKIP email

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

In the internal UKIP email, press officers were ordered to sever contact with Ms Evans. The email also instructed them to refuse any media interview requests for her and said "she is not to be offered as an official UKIP spokesman".

'Tower of strength'

Ms Evans was a prominent figure during the campaign and when Mr Farage said he was resigning as leader after he failed to become an 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"

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 and 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'

Mr Kassam pulled out of a planned interview on the BBC's Daily Politics on Friday, saying it would be "unhelpful" for him to appear.

Former UKIP 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."

A spokesman for Mr Farage said: "Godfrey Bloom is no longer in UKIP and hasn't been for two years, therefore we do not feel the need to respond to any of his comments."

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