Nigel Farage is refusing to do any more campaigning for Ukip in the Stoke Central by-election after falling out with the new leader’s closest advisor, Huff Post UK has learned.
Farage last week appeared at a rally in Stoke to support Paul Nuttall’s bid to win the seat from Labour, but was furious to discover a Ukip member who had made a series of allegations about him was helping to run the event.
Lisa Duffy – who unsuccessfully stood to be party leader last summer – was secretly recorded by her campaign manager making claims about Farage’s personal life, which became the basis of a controversial book about Ukip.
Farage is considering suing Duffy over her comments, and was appalled to see her at the Victoria Hall in Stoke on February 6 when he addressed hundreds of local residents.
A source close to the former Ukip leader says he holds Patrick O’Flynn – Nuttall’s closest advisor – responsible for Duffy’s involvement.
Ukip MEP O’Flynn employs Duffy and her husband Peter Reeve as assistants in the European Parliament.
The source said: “Nigel told Paul he needed to get professionals in his team running Stoke. This week he is in Strasbourg as he does not want to be around Lisa Duffy after the false allegations she made up.
“The Labour candidate is so bad this election is Paul’s to lose, but he has been hijacked by people who do not have the skills they think they have.”
Despite no longer being head of the party, Farage is still a popular figure, and drew a crowd of several hundreds to the public meeting on a cold and wet night in the Potteries last week.
Huff Post UK has learned he is unimpressed with the party’s campaigning operation in the seat, and after seeing Duffy called for her to be removed from the team.
O’Flynn refused to get rid of Duffy, leading Farage to vow to stay away from Stoke for the rest of the campaign.
Since the public rally, Nuttall’s bid to win Stoke Central is threatening to come off the rails after he admitted claims on his own website that he had lost a close friend in the Hillsborough football disaster were not true.
The Ukip leader also faced questions early in the campaign about his eligibility to take part in the election after it emerged he had yet to stay in the Stoke house he had registered as his official address.
Labour is defending a majority of 5,179 in the by-election, caused by the resignation of Tristram Hunt at the end of January.
The party’s candidate, Gareth Snell, has also faced criticism, with numerous offensive posts on his Twitter feed aimed at women coming to the surface.
It is not the first time Farage has clashed with O’Flynn. In the aftermath of Ukip’s disappointing 2015 General Election result the former Daily Express Political Editor described the then-leader’s team of advisors as “wrong-uns” who had made Farage appear “thin-skinned, snarling and aggressive”.
In the EU Referendum, O’Flynn was the only Ukip MEP not to support the Farage-backed Grassroots Out bid for the official Leave campaign designation, instead siding with eventual winners Vote Leave.