UKIP has lost its second MEP in just six days, with Bill Etheridge resigning in protest of what he says is the party’s move away from libertarianism and the leader’s personal “obsession” with some cultural issues.
The West Midlands representative in the European Parliament and former defence spokesman said UKIP is increasingly seen as a “vehicle for hate towards Muslims and the Gay community” and is moving towards “nationalisations and more state control”.
Lord William Dartmouth, the MEP for South West England, resigned last week for similar reasons, alleging the party is “widely perceived as both homophobic and anti-Islamic”.
Mr Etheridge is a fan of former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, including her small state and low tax policies, and is more socially liberal than the current leader Gerard Batten who wants to ban the Muslim face veil, for example.
“The party I joined was a libertarian party (as stated in the constitution) that rejected extremism and was striving for relevance in the main stream of British politics offering a patriotic, freedom loving alternative to the British people,” he said in a statement.
“A leader with no mandate has permanently changed the character of UKIP,” the former leadership contender adds, addressing current leader Mr Batten directly.
“The change in the character of the membership with many of the more liberal minded members leaving and being replaced by people inspired by your opinions means that I now believe the party is irredeemably changed.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 22, 2016
He added: “You have allowed your personal obsessions free reign. The party is now seen by large swathes of the British public as a vehicle for hate towards Muslims and the Gay community.
“In addition, you and your entourage have imposed a manifesto upon us, which actually includes nationalisations and more state control, anathema for a party, which has libertarianism enshrined in its constitution.”
Mr Batten responded with a sarcastic statement, insisting the party membership is “fully behind my leadership”. He added:
“I hope that Mr Etheridge will do the decent and honourable thing and resign his seat, thereby handing it back to UKIP to which it morally belongs.
“I am sure the loss of his salary, daily allowance, and pension rights would be a small price to pay for a man of principle such as he.”
Responding to Lord Dartmouth’s resignation last week Mr Batten made similar points. He said:
“It is customary when a colleague resigns to express regret. Sadly in this instance that would not be sincere since Lord Dartmouth has done very little if anything to further the interests of UKIP.
“He was one of those people recruited under previous leaders whose sympathies were more with the Conservative Party than with UKIP.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 26, 2016