The third UK Independence party leadership contest in less than a year has escalated with accusations that the anti-EU party has been taken over by far-right, anti-Islam activists.
Anne Marie Waters, the director of Sharia Watch UK pressure group, was last week approved by Ukip’s national executive as one of 11 candidates in this summer’s contest.
The decision has provoked anger among senior party figures, who note that she was blocked as a parliamentary candidate for the general election. The party’s former leader, Paul Nuttall, said at the time that Ms Waters’s views made him “uncomfortable”.
Ms Waters’s leadership manifesto accuses Islam of turning Britain into “a fearful and censorious society”, and proposes “internment of known jihadis”, the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the banning of the burka.
Ms Waters also claims that “large sections of inner-city Britain have become ungovernable”, and that reforms to address institutional racism in British policing must be undone.
Brexit, once the party’s raison d’être, is downgraded to “one of Ukip’s top priorities”.
“This is not the party I joined,” said Mike Hookem, a Ukip MEP and fisheries spokesman. “We’ve been infiltrated . . . To me [Waters] shouldn’t even be in the party.”
Mr Hookem resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip in the European Parliament last week in protest of the party’s chief whip, Stuart Agnew MEP, backing Ms Waters. Other MEPs have said they would resign if Ms Waters is elected leader next month.
Nigel Farage, the party’s talisman, has said Ukip would be “finished” if Islam becomes its main rallying cry.
But the leadership contest shows that Ukip’s problems go far beyond Ms Waters.
The last party leader, Mr Nuttall,…