UKIP leadership race front-runner Raheem Kassam has withdrawn his bid to lead the party citing concerns over the integrity of the process, and calling on his supporters to rally behind former London mayoral candidate Peter Whittle.
Kassam, Breitbart London’s Editor-in-Chief said in a statement on Monday that he did not make the decision lightly, but the party’s conduct and media intrusion into his family’s lives had created an “impossible route forward” for his campaign.
The party, he said, is treating the leadership election “like a coronation”, ignoring misconduct even when complaints were made.
“I am not satisfied about the integrity of the process, and having put a number of complaints in to the party chairman, I was disappointed that incidents whereby Members of the European Parliament are using party databases to effectively campaign against me – ostensibly against the rules – were not challenged,” Kassam said.
I have suspended my campaign for UKIP leader. A statement is on my website. Thank you to everyone who supported me. https://t.co/kt4SPfkOLM
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) October 31, 2016
He added that the media was also to blame after Times journalists “show up at my elderly parents’ house at dusk, intimidating them”.
“Billy Kenber at the Times has a lot to answer for and I will be pursuing a harassment complaint further,” he said.
Funding played a part in the decision, as although Kassam gained broad support, “we could not raise enough for this to be more than a digital campaign run from SW1,” he said, adding: “to not [appear] at events all around the country would have made me a hypocrite, given how much I criticise the establishment for ignoring the country.”
Donors to his campaign will have a choice either to have their money refunded, donated to charity, or donated to Peter Whittle’s leadership campaign.
Many had considered Kassam to be the front-runner in the race, especially following the endorsement of major UKIP donor Arron Banks and the tacit approval of Nigel Farage.
Throughout his campaign he emphasised his vision for UKIP to become a real opposition, discussing his ideas on several radio programmes including TalkRADIO with James Whale. Whale was so impressed by Kassam’s passion he called him the first “energised” UKIP candidate since Nigel Farage.
Yet he also suffered racist abuse from the left-wing establishment who suggested that his skin colour would prevent him becoming leader, and even went so far as to insinuate that Kassam’s enthusiasm for British pub culture is an act designed to counter suggestions from racist UKIP members that he is a “secret Muslim”.
Kassam wished the party and its eventual new leader “all the best in ensuring Brexit happens, and in the upcoming electoral tests next year.
“I remain committed to the causes of the UK Independence Party, but sadly, at this campaign, it was a bridge too far for us,” he concluded.
Kassam will be continuing as Editor in Chief of Breitbart London, returning to the United States this week to cover the last leg of the presidential elections.