Is UKIP Finished? Top donor could create NEW PARTY in fury over Steven Woolfe leader ban

A TOP UKIP official has voiced fears the party “could be finished” as a major donor suggested he might form a breakaway movement.

Ukip’s multi-millionaire donor Arron Banks suggested he could bankroll a new party

Ukip is set for another round of bitter infighting after party bosses announced heavy favourite Steven Woolfe has been banned from running as a candidate to replace departing leader Nigel Farage.

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) voted by a majority to expel the MEP from this summer’s leadership election after he submitted his application 17 minutes late.

Three NEC members subsequently resigned their posts in protest at the decision, with Mr Woolfe branding the ruling body “not fit for purpose”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “To me this is a fight for survival.

“If we don’t get this right, we don’t get a competent leader who’s comfortable with the media, the party could be finished.

“It’s life or death now and that’s why I’ve taken such a strong decision to leave the NEC.

“Because we need reform and we need it now so that we are ready to fight the next general election and the local elections next year where we’re supposed to do quite well.

“We have been looking at whether a new party should start

Arron Banks

Mr McGough blamed a “faction” – including Ukip’s MP Douglas Carswell and suspended ex-deputy chairman Suzanne Evans – for ending Mr Woolfe’s leadership hopes amid other accusations of a ‘coup’.

Mr Woolfe had been backed by Mr Farage’s close allies while Ms Evans is supporting local councillor Lisa Duffy in the leadership election, who has been dubbed the ‘anti-Farage candidate’ by party insiders.

Mr Carswell has insisted he is remaining “absolutely neutral in the leadership contest”, pointing to the importance of the party’s only MP being able to work with any leader.

A source close to Ms Evans suggested it was unlikely she would want to dignify Mr McGough’s claims with a response.

He told City AM: “We have been looking at whether a new party should start, which bits we might want to keep and what is the best way of doing things.”

Mr Banks, who funded the Leave.EU campaign during the EU referendum, added yesterday’s decision made such a scenario “more likely”.

Ukip chairman Paul Oakden said he ‘hoped’ the party would not split and denied barring Mr Woolfe was petty, insisting rules had to be followed.

But fellow MEP Jane Collins hit out at the influence of Mr Banks over Ukip in a blast at the party’s fracturing in the battle to replace Mr Farage.

She said: “Recent events have led me to believe that the membership are not being given a choice and that this election is simply a battle between two sides, each with a puppet candidate.”

Ms Collins said she did not want Ukip “to become the Aaron Banks party”, adding: “Aaron Banks does not own UKIP. We are not a commodity to be bought: you cannot buy political ideas and values.

“As much as I believe there are two candidates in this race who are being managed by one faction, I also believe that another candidate is being used by a group of people who are organising a coup.”

Adding to criticism of the party’s NEC, she added: “It seems to me to be using its position to remove Steven Woolfe as a candidate on the wishes of Douglas Carswell, Suzanne Evans and their supporters.”