- Belgian and German MEPs mock Ukip leader in European Parliament
- Follows his vow to quit if he did not become a leader, before ‘unresigning’
- Today he admitted it was wrong to promise to stand down after election
- Patrick O’Flynn ousted as economics spokesman after attacking Farage
- Suzanne Evans, tipped as a future leader, ditched as policy chief
Matt Chorley, Political Editor for MailOnline
03:02 EST, 20 May 2015
07:59 EST, 20 May 2015
Nigel Farage was left squirming today as he was mocked by senior Belgian and German MEPs in the European Parliament over his farcical ‘unresignation’.
To laughter in the debating chamber, the Ukip leader was accused of writing to himself to announce he wanted to quit, before replying that he refused the resignation.
It came after Mr Farage insisted Ukip was ‘100 per cent united’ behind him after carrying out a purge of his critics from top jobs.
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Nigel Farage was today mocked by Belgian and German MEPs in the European Parliament over his farcical ‘unresignation’
The Ukip leader admitted he was wrong to promise to quit if he failed to become an MP as he faced questions about his credibility for not keeping his word.
But he made clear he had stamped out his critics who said ‘one or two regrettable things’, including former policy chief Suzanne Evans and economics spokesman Patrick O’Flynn.
After failing to win his seat in South Thanet at the general election, he agreed to stand down and named Ms Evans as an interim replacement.
Nigel Farage has sent a letter to Nigel Farage saying ‘I resign’, and Nigel Farage has responded to Nigel Farage saying ‘I refuse’
Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt
But three days later he ‘unresigned’, claiming the party had refused his offer to quit, triggering days of blood-letting, vicious briefing and calls for him to go.
The bizarre series of events party was seized on by his opponents in Strasbourg today.
Manfred Weber, a German MEP, teased the Ukip leader, telling the European Parliament: ‘I would like to welcome Mr Farage, the loser of the elections, the big election loser in the UK.
Mr Weber, who leads the European People’s Party, the largest group in Brussels, joked that Mr Farage was the beneficiary of the proportional voting system used in Europe.
‘If Europe didn’t have a proportional system for elections he wouldn’t have a job any more.
‘So the British voters didn’t vote for him and I have to say that Mr Farage has lost credibility because he announced that if the British voters didn’t vote for him, then he would stand down as party leader.
‘He said he would stand down, he would resign, he wouldn’t continue in that post.
‘You didn’t keep your electoral promise Mr Farage. You are still here in your capacity as party leader and you’ve broken a very important promise that you made in your election campaign. So welcome back!’
German MEP Manfred Weber called Mr Farage the ‘big election loser’ while Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt joked that Mr Farage had written to himself to resign, before refusing his own resignation
To laughter, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt told Mr Weber that he ‘doesn’t understand how it works’ in Ukip.
Mr Verhofstadt., a former prime minister of Belgium, said: ‘He is a man of his word. Nigel Farage has sent a letter to Nigel Farage saying “I resign”, and Nigel Farage has responded to Nigel Farage saying “I refuse”… That’s the way it works there.’
Mr Farage sought to brush off the criticism, sarcastically thanking them for the ‘warm welcome’.
I would like to welcome Mr Farage, the loser of the elections, the big election loser in the UK
‘I do detect, in some of the smiles and laughter that have been directed towards me, a small hint of nervousness. And so there jolly well should be,’ Mr Farage said.
He claimed the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU would trigger a ‘fundamental debate on the existence of this Union and the need for it in the modern world’.
Mr Farage last night tightened his grip on control of Ukip after the most turbulent two weeks of his leadership.
Mr O’Flynn who branded his leader ‘snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive’, yesterday stood down as economics spokesman with a grovelling apology to Mr Farage.
And Ms Evans, Ukip deputy chairman who wrote the party’s general election manifesto, was sacked from her role as policy chief.
Mr Farage today insisted Ukip is ‘100 per cent united’ behind him after carrying out a purge of his critics from top jobs
In an attempt to put an end to the in-fighting, Mr Farage told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What has happened in Ukip is since the election after the pressure cooker atmosphere of a campaign one or two regrettable things were said and done.
‘I’ll tell you where this leaves Ukip – unlike the other parties – united. 100 per cent united.
‘We have for over 20 years fought to make the EU an issue. We were told we were the mad men from the hills for even considering whether Britain could have a future outside political uni0on.
‘And we now have a referendum on the subject. We are united and the other parties are very, very divided.’
But he appeared uncomfortable when asked about Ms Evans, who he named as his successor when he resigned in South Thanet on May 8.
‘ll tell you where this leaves Ukip – unlike the other parties – united. 100 per cent united
He later emerged that she was asked to promise not to run against Mr Farage to become leader if he chose to return. She refused and by Monday Mr Farage unresigned.
‘She came in a few months ago to put together the manifesto which is a job that she did very successfully and her contract runs out next week. She is potentially great electoral asset for us.’
And in remarks mocked online for being sinister, he added: ‘I have other plans for what Suzanne Evans can do for Ukip.’
Pressed on whether he thought should could be leader, he appeared to forget he endorsed her less than two weeks ago: ‘That would be ridiculous for me to say who should be the next leader because that wouldn’t do them any favours.
‘There’s no question that she’s a very able woman, no doubt about that. Anyone that watched our manifesto launch would realise that.’
Mr Farage said he was ‘not at all happy’ about having to be signed I to the Commons as a visitor after failing to become an MP.
Ukip’s economics spokesman Patrick O’Flynn (left) and policy chief Suzanne Evans (centre) were both ousted as Mr Farage tightened his grip on the leadership
HOW FARAGE CHANGED HIS TUNE
Tuesday March 17
Nigel Farage (in Purple Revolution): It is frankly just not credible for me to continue to lead the party without a Westminster seat. Was I supposed to brief Ukip policy from the Westminster Arms? No – if I fail to win South Thanet, it is curtains for me. I will have to step down.’
Friday May 8
Nigel Farage: ‘I’m a man of my word, I shall be writing to the Ukip national executive in a few minutes, saying I am standing down as leader of Ukip. I have resigned, I have gone. I am going to take the summer off and enjoy myself for the first time in 20 years. That is what I am going to do.’
Monday May 11
Ukip: ‘Mr Farage withdrew his resignation and will remain leader.’
Sunday May 17
Nigel Farage: ‘I’ve decided I will name the date when I stand down. ‘I’m looking at about 2035 at the moment.’
Wednesday May 20
Nigel Farage, asked if he was wrong to say he would quit if he didn’t become an MP: ‘Well yes, things do evolve. Politics is changing very quickly.’
Despite winning 4million votes, Ukip was left with just one MP – Douglas Carswell who was among those who called for Mr Farage to take a ‘break’.
Asked if he was wrong to say he would quit if he didn’t become an MP, he said: ‘Well yes, things do evolve. Politics is changing very quickly.
‘None of us thought, not even Mr Cameron, that there would be a Conservative majority. Incidentally primary not just down to the SNP but because Ukip took so many Labour votes in the Midlands and the north of England and we let the Tories win a lot more seats.
‘I’m very angry that 4million people… the third biggest party in Britain… never ever in the history of British politics have so many voters been so unrepresented.
‘I don’t just want reform in terms of change in our relationship with the European Union, we definitely need a new electoral system in Britain.’
Mr Farage vowed not to change his leadership style, despite heavy criticism of the ‘shock and awful’ strategy which saw him attack a TV audience for being left-wing and complain about migrants with life-threatening illnesses.
Asked if he would soften his style in future – as many of his colleagues have publicly demanded – M Farage insisted: ‘No it isn’t going to change. I fought a wholly positive campaign. Let’s make no bones about that.’
He defended his criticism of foreigners with HIV who were able to ‘jet in’ and get anti-retroviral drugs. ‘Interestingly opinion polls showed overwhelming support for my view, he said.
Mr Farage went on: ‘Some people in my own party don’t think immigration is as important as I think it is. And that is natural in politics, we all have slightly different emphases.
‘If you look at all the post-election statistics, Ukip fought the least negative campaign.’
Mr O’Flynn’s comments in an interview last week plunged the party into crisis and raised serious doubts about whether Mr Farage could survive.
He attacked the leader’s ‘aggressive’ and ‘inexperienced’ advisers, two of whom left as Mr Farage tried to cling on.
But now Mr O’Flynn himself has resigned, with a public apology to his leader.
Despite winning 4million votes, Ukip was left with just one MP – Douglas Carswell (right) who was among those who called for Mr Farage to take a ‘break’
In a statement to Ukip MEPs yesterday, Mr O’Flynn said: ‘I would like to express to colleagues my sincere regret at going public with my frustrations about the turn of events following polling day.
‘And more than that, I would like to apologise directly to Nigel for the phrase ‘snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive’.
‘This was a fragment of a wider passage about perceptions and is not what I think of him. Nonetheless, I should have known better than anyone what use would be made of phrases that were both unfair and unkind.
I have other plans for what Suzanne Evans can do for Ukip
‘I am proud of what we achieved in the general election and am only sorry to have succumbed, as Roger (Helmer) put it with such impressive understatement, to public remarks that were ‘unhelpful’.
‘I think it appropriate to stand down as economic spokesman, which I have done. I hope in the months ahead to be of use to the great campaign to persuade the British people to leave the EU, which is after all what brought me into politics in the first place.’
Ukip also announced that Miss Evans, a former BBC local radio reporter who was seen as the star performer from the party’s election campaign, would finish her role as policy chief.
Miss Evans said: ‘It has been a great privilege to work with Ukip for the past four months to produce the 2015 general election manifesto.
‘I was delighted with the way it was received, especially by party members and supporters. While my contract for that work comes to an end next week, I remain in my voluntary post as Deputy Chairman.’