Godfrey Bloom has quit as a Ukip MEP - but he's not leaving politics yet.
The controversial politician had the whip unceremoniously withdrawn by Nigel Farage after an undignified kerfuffle with Channel Four presenter Michael Crick at the party's conference, which followed an event where Bloom called a roomful of women "sluts".
Bloom will now sit as an independent MEP until next year's European election.
Bloom said in a statement that the "New Ukip" was "not really right for me any more". His spokeswoman said it was not clear whether he would seek re-election for a third term next May.
"I have felt for some time now that the New Ukip is not really right for me anymore perhaps than New Labour was right for the Denis 'The beast of Bolsover' Skinner.
"However our message is clear: self government. Our wonderful and loyal membership will win through with their dedication and hard work. It has been a pleasure to work with them for 15 years.
"May I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the thousands of people who have supported me with messages of goodwill in the recent months and particularly in recent days. There have been simply too many to make a personal response, forgive me.
"I shall sit out my term as an independent and give my wholehearted support to Jane Collins who is almost certainly going to be the next Ukip MEP and probably a second seat yet to be decided.
"I shall of course retain my membership."
Godfrey Bloom has left UKIP. http://t.co/QTbOdv3RqS I think we can call that Bloom and Bust. LOL!— John Prescott (@johnprescott) September 24, 2013
Godfrey Bloom to leave UKIP. Imagine being too unhinged to be welcome in UKIP. Amazing.— Marcus Brigstocke (@marcusbrig) September 24, 2013
Farage said the MEP had "just gone way over the line" with his comments last week.
But speaking to the BBC on Tuesday morning, Farage said he did not want to see Mr Bloom kicked out of the party altogether, claiming he had not crossed the lines of extremism or racism.
He said: "I'm very sorry it has come to this, he's been with us for 15 years, he's sat in the European Parliament since 2004, he absolutely 100% believes in everything Ukip stands for and he's been a good, loyal MEP for us. It's a sorry state of affairs.
"All the things Godfrey has said have not been meant in malice but they have all been tremendous distractions from the main messages Ukip is trying to push out... nearly everything he has said has been meant as a joke.
"I don't want to see him hounded out of the party... we're very clear, racism, extremism, we wouldn't tolerate anything like that."
Following the incident, Ukip chairman Steve Crowther said: "I have withdrawn the whip from Godfrey Bloom, pending a formal disciplinary hearing."
Party sources said the temporary suspension had effectively been made permanent and they did not expect Bloom to be a candidate again in May.Suggest a correction