Two Ukip chairmen have resigned from the party over the “crass insensitivity” of Paul Nuttall’s false claims about the Hillsborough tragedy.
Liverpool and Merseyside branch chairs Stuart Monkham and Adam Heatherington announced they were quitting Ukip on Monday and said Nuttall was “not fit to lead” to the party.
The resignations are another setback for Nuttall’s hopes of being elected the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central at the by-election on Thursday.
Last week Nuttall admitted claims on his website that he lost “close personal friends” at Hillsborough were false.
However he has denied allegations he was not even at the stadium at the time and said he is the victim of a “coordinated, cruel and almost evil smear campaign”.
Ukip donor Arron Banks also said he was “sick to death” of hearing about Hillsborough.
In a statement, Monkham said: ““Although the timing of our resignations is unfortunate in light of upcoming elections, both Adam and I wish to make it clear, where the painful subject of Hillsborough is concerned, with closure not yet in sight, this unprofessional approach and crass insensitivity from high profile people closely within and without Ukip is upsetting and intolerable.
“We identify most strongly with all the good people of Liverpool and most importantly the families of the Hillsborough victims who have fought so hard and long for justice, in their condemnation of the way Ukip has handled these issues and have resigned our positions and membership of Ukip forthwith.”
The potential of Ukip has been squandered Ukip official Adam Heatherington
Heatherington added: “We have been affected both personally and professionally by words that were not said in our name. With this in mind, we wish to apologise to the people of Liverpool and the Hillsborough families for any offence caused and have done what we consider to be the only honourable thing we could do which was to resign and disassociate ourselves from Ukip.
“I felt that supporting a libertarian party was the right thing to do in order to effect change within the political system in this country.
“Unfortunately that dream has been shattered and the potential of Ukip has been squandered by people who have demonstrated they are not fit to lead at present.”
With just days to go until the Stoke by-election, Nuttall’s website is still offline for “scheduled maintenance”.
The Ukip leader’s press officer took the blame for the false statements posted on the site and offered her resignation.
At the party’s Spring conference on Friday, Nutall admitted it had been “a tough week” but insisted he would not allow critics to “break me”.
During the speech, Nuttall recieved a standing ovation when he said journalists had questioned whether he had “the support of my party”.
After the speech, he refused to take questions from a group of journalists but said to the media scrum: “I have said absolutely everything I’ve got to say on the subject. I was at Hillsborough. I’ve got witness statements.”