Steven Woolfe should be allowed to stand in the UKIP leadership race despite Thursday’s altercation and revealing he considered defecting to the Conservative Party, rival contender Raheem Kassam has said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics show on Friday, Kassam called for an “open contest” and warned party insiders against trying to keep candidates off the ballot.
He said the party was going through an “existential crisis” after the Brexit vote, and Thursday’s events only add to that crisis, but UKIP can nonetheless recover.
Kassam said the party needed to “get on with its job” of being an opposition party to Theresa May’s Conservatives – “because goodness knows Labour aren’t going to do it”.
On the question of Steven Woolfe’s revelation that he considered defecting to the Conservative Party last weekend, Kassam said it was a mistake but that should not disqualify him.
Although Woolfe “may have made a judgment error in speaking to the Conservative Party” he can still “credibly stand” because he will realise he made a mistake and move on from it.
Kassam appeared on the show alongside Daily Mail Editor-at-Large Isabel Oakeshott who said she would like to see him as one of the UKIP leadership candidates, given how long and intimately he has been involved in the party.
Kassam also called for the party to come together after Thursday’s incident and for the warring factions to put their differences aside, however he also pledged that if after that it is clear some people still want to damage the party, they should be kicked out.
He also warned that Britain was in desperate need of a strong opposition party, not least as Theresa May’s apparent conversion to muscular conservatism would not last until the next election.
“We can’t have Theresa May who is trying to be UKIP for two and a half years to syphon of UKIP members, and then turns on her head when she’s got an election coming up when she has to fight Jeremy Corbyn.”