Former Ukip leadership candidate Suzanne Evans has quit the party, criticising its “increasingly hostile and vicious focus on attacking the Muslim community”.
Evans, Ukip’s deputy chair between 2014 and 2017, said she was unwilling to “turn a blind eye” to attempts by leader Gerard Batten and far-right activist Tommy Robinson to orchestrate “a Momentum-style takeover” of the party – a reference to the Labour grassroots movement supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
“I joined Ukip because it was a Brexit party, and because I wanted a referendum on our EU membership,” she said in a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.
“I would never have joined UKIP as it stands today, obsessed as it is with becoming a successor to the BNP and the EDL, and putting an increasingly hostile and vicious focus on attacking the Muslim community en masse.”
Her resignation comes two weeks after Batten appointed Robinson – the founder of the far-right English Defence League – as an official adviser on grooming gangs and prisons, despite protests from within the party.
On Sunday, Batten survived a no-confidence vote by Ukip’s ruling National Executive Committee.
Evans said the group had failed to protect the party from taking a “devastatingly wrong turn” and from a leader “who appears hell-bent on destroying it from within”.
“I am very proud of my work with Ukip in the past, and all I have previously helped the party achieve,” she wrote, adding that she has “no regrets”.
“However, the time has most definitely come to completely sever my connection to Ukip because, quite simply, it is no longer the party I joined, and it is not now one I want any part of.”
A spokesperson for Ukip said Batten was “disappointed” over Evans’ decision.
“However, he must weigh up the loss of a few individual members such as Mrs Evans with the 8,000 members who have joined the party since he became leader.”
Evans’ decision to leave followed a warning from former party leader Nigel Farage, who said Ukip “will become the BNP” with Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – on the inside.
“He’s somebody who attracts around him a group of thugs,” Farage said on his LBC show yesterday.
“Whenever there’s a march, a rally, where Tommy is appearing, there are lots of arrests, police horses get attacked, beer bottles get chucked in the street. And I’m afraid that’s what comes with him.”