UK Politics

UKIP 'cannot verify' whether MEPs fought

Mike Hookem (left) and Steven Woolfe (right) Image copyright PA
Image caption Mike Hookem (left) and Steven Woolfe (right)

The UK Independence Party has said it cannot "verify" whether two MEPs had a fight in the European Parliament.

Steven Woolfe collapsed and spent two days in hospital earlier this month, claiming he had been struck earlier by colleague Mike Hookem.

But Mr Hookem denied this account and, in a report, UKIP says that there were no eyewitnesses.

It has issued Mr Hookem a formal reprimand - Mr Woolfe has left the party since the incident.

UKIP said what happened had brought "great shame" on both men.

The European Parliament has referred the incident, which took place in its building in Strasbourg, to French police.

On 5 October, reports emerged that Mr Woolfe - an MEP for North West England and, at the time, a UKIP leadership contender - had been considering defecting to the Conservatives.

The party called a meeting for the next day.

Soon after Mr Woolfe began speaking, Mr Hookem, an MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, "interjected to outline his disappointment over Mr Woolfe's behaviour", the report says.

It adds that a "clear majority" of those at the meeting said he had raised his voice "in keeping with his usual style - assertive but not aggressive". But "a very small number" said this had happened in an "aggressive and overly forceful manner".

Image copyright ukip
Image caption Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem had a disagreement in this meeting room in the European Parliament
Image copyright ukip
Image caption They exited by separate doors to deal with issues "man to man"

The report states that Mr Woolfe suggested the two leave the meeting to deal with the issues "man to man".

It adds that a "clear majority" of those at the meeting thought this meant he was "offering for Mr Hookem to go outside for a physical altercation" - but a "small number" believed he was "merely suggesting a conversation in a more private environment".

Most of those present thought Mr Woolfe had removed his suit jacket at the time, the report says.

The two men left the meeting room through separate doors, with those present saying they were gone for between a few seconds and a minute.

Mr Woolfe alleged he had "received a blow" from Mr Hookem. But Mr Hookem denied that either man had attempted to strike the other.

The report says: "Due to the lack of eyewitnesses, it is not possible to verify either account."

'Make them wince'

Another MEP opened the door and Mr Woolfe came tumbling back into the meeting room.

"Whilst it is possible that Mr Woolfe could have been pushed through the door by Mr Hookem, there is no evidence to confirm this," the report says.

A "small number of members" said they had seen Mr Woolfe strike the back of his head on a ledge immediately beneath large glass panels which lined the wall of the meeting room. They confirmed that the force of this impact was sufficient to "make them wince".

Both men then continued with the meeting before Mr Woolfe left at about 10.20.

At about midday, he collapsed while crossing a connecting bridge within the European Parliament.

The report says Mr Woolfe had told UKIP he suffered extradural haematoma, two seizures and a contusion.

It adds: "The investigation finds it reasonable to believe that the hospitalisation of Mr Woolfe was as a result of the blow he took to the back of his head, due to his fall."

The report finds that "Mr Woolfe instigated the altercation" by offering to deal with it "man to man" and it is "reasonable to assume" he meant to have a "physical altercation".

For his part, Mr Hookem "failed to give due consideration to the reputation of the party when deciding to accept Mr Woolfe's suggestion".

The party has placed a "formal reprimand" on Mr Hookem's record, "to be considered in the event of a reoccurrence of any infraction which might cause damage to the reputation of the party".

It adds that it now considers the matter "closed".

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