Woolfe Quits UKIP
Steven Woolfe has told the BBC there’s “something rotten” in the party he had hoped to lead before he was hospitalized following an altercation with a fellow member of the UK Independence Party.
”I will be withdrawing my application to become leader of UKIP,” he said. “I’m actually withdrawing myself from UKIP. I’m resigning with immediate effect.”
Woolfe, in the interview, also contradicted the account of Mike Hookem, the UKIP MEP accused of assaulting him. Hookem had told the BBC that he did not hit Woolfe, but Woolfe said Monday that Hookem “rushed at me. A blow to my face forced me back through the door."
Another 48 Hours in Hospital
Nathan Gill, the UKIP MEP, told reporters in Strasbourg, that Woolfe had been moved to the hospital’s neurological department “as a precautionary measure,” and will remain in the hospital for another 48 hours. He added that Woolfe had “reached out the hand of friendship to Mr Hookum.”
Hookum, the man who is said to have gotten into the altercation with Woolfe that resulted in the MEPs hospitalization, told the BBC that he did not hit Woolfe.
"I am innocent," he said. "I never threw a punch. I never assaulted him. I will stand my corner."
Farage, the interim party leader, said in a statement that UKIP was conducting its own inquiry into the events:
The president of the European Parliament said he’d ordered a separate inquiry into the incident:
Nigel Farage says UKIP will launch an investigation into the events that led to Woolfe’s condition.
He told reporters the incident was “not good,” adding he was happy that Woolfe’s condition had improved, given that at one stage people weren’t sure he would “make it.” He said believed there would be no criminal investigation of the incident. But Sky News reported the European Parliament would investigate the matter. Here’s more:
UKIP has long had a reputation of bitter internal feuding, with a number of high-profile party figures making no secret of their dislike for each other.
The only other candidate to declare so far in the leadership contest, Mr Farage's former aide Raheem Kassam, warned on Wednesday the party could not look forward to a positive future unless it was able to heal the "internal fractures".
"There are so many people shaking hands with one another and then knifing them in private. It has to stop," he said.
ITV, the UK broadcaster, captured this image of Woolfe after he collapsed:
The exact details of what actually happened to Woolfe are unclear, but Neil Hamilton, UKIP’s leader in the Welsh assembly, told the BBC “Steven … picked a fight with” an MEP “and came off worse.” Here’s the video:
The Guardian has more on Woolfe’s altercation, which apparently stemmed over his decision to contest the leadership election while simultaneously talking to the Conservatives about possibly defecting to the ruling party. The newspaper reported that Woolfe’s fight was with Mike Hookem, the UKIP MEP for the Yorkshire and the Humber region.
A source close to the party said the fight happened when Mike Hookem, MEP, turned up to the Strasbourg meeting at 10am and “made a few choice words” to Woolfe about “defecting to the Tories”.
“Stephen Woolfe has then taken his jacket off, walked over and said, ‘Right, you outside now’ or words to that effect,” the source told the Guardian. “They went outside and Stephen Woolfe got the better of it.”
It is understood that Woolfe walked away from the fight and appeared well enough to vote half an hour later. However, Woolfe left the vote mid-way through and then collapsed before he was taken to hospital.
The source added that Woolfe is thought to be conscious and recovering well to hospital treatment. Nathan Gill, his fellow MEP and a close friend, is at Woolfe’s hospital bedside.
The source said he is concerned about what will happen next to both MEPs. “Stephen was the aggressor but Hookem has hit him and I just know the way that will come across,” the contact said.
British media are also reporting that after being punched, Woolfe “banged his head on a metal bar. He collapsed 30 minutes later.”
Woolfe Is 'Brighter, Happier, and Smiling'
Steven Woolfe has issued a statement about his condition:
The CT scan has shown that there is no blood clot in the brain. At the moment I am feeling brighter, happier, and smiling as ever. As a precaution, I am being kept in overnight awaiting secondary tests to make sure everything in fine.
I would like everyone to know that the parliamentary staff, the Ukip MEPs with me and hospital staff have been brilliant. Their care has been exceptional. I am sitting up, and said to be looking well. The only consequence at the moment is a bit of numbness on the left hand side of my face.
UKIP, which should be celebrating in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU given that Brexit was one of the party’s main platforms, has found itself struggling in the months since the referendum. First, Nigel Farage, the party leader, quit in July after achieving what he called his “political ambition.” The party then held a fractious leadership vote that resulted in a victory on September 16 for Diane James, the MEP.
But just 18 days later, James quit, citing both personal and professional reasons. Farage stepped back in this week on an interim basis while the party chose a new leader. One contender is Steven Woolfe, whose candidacy was rejected by the party the last time around because he turned in his papers 17 minutes late.
As we said earlier, the circumstances that led to Woolfe’s altercation with his fellow UKIP MEPs is unclear, but Neil Hamilton, the leader of the UKIP group in the Welsh assembly, told the BBC there was “too much violence” in the party, but he clarified to say he meant abuse—not physical violence.
More on Steven Woolfe
Woolfe, 47, is a member of European Parliament for England’s North West region, and represents the far-right UK Independence Party. He has been an MEP since July 2014.
He is also a contender for UKIP’s leadership after the turmoil sparked this week by Diane James’s resignation from the post after just 18 days in the job.
Woolfe—like everyone else in his party—believes the EU has too much power, and he was a vocal advocate for Brexit, the process by which the UK voted over the summer to leave the EU. Here’s more on his position on the EU, from his website:
STEVEN BELIEVES that contrary to the wishes of the people of Europe, the European Union has embarked on an aggressive assault on its constituent nations states sovereignty that will trample upon the democratic freedoms gained over centuries by its people, creating a new country and granting more power to smaller elites and major corporations. He is determined to champion those who oppose this and UKIP in helping Britain leaving the EU and return powers lost to Parliament and the Peoples' representatives.
In recent days, it was reported that he was in talks to join the UK’s ruling Conservative Party, and, in a statement, he said while he was “enthused by the start to Theresa May’s premiership,” he had come “to the “conclusion that only a strong UKIP can guarantee Brexit is delivered in full, and only our party can stand up for the communities of the Midlands and the north.”
Woolfe, an attorney by training, was born in Manchester and studied at St Bernards RC school, St Bede's RC Independent College, and Aberystwyth University.