Suzanne Evans declared UKIP to have a “toxic” image as she launched her bid to lead the party today, denouncing her rival Raheem Kassam as “far right”.
Outgoing leader Nigel Farage immediately condemned the attack on the party, insisting Mrs. Evans was “in the wrong place” and revealing he would be opposing her candidacy.
The former Tory councilor told the BBC this morning she was “not a fan” of US presidential candidate Donald Trump and that UKIP’s “future as a political party in Britain does not lie in that far right wing.”
She calmed there is no “groundswell of opinion in this country for more far right wing policies” and “Tea party issues” including “the right to bear arms”.
Commenting on her rival Mr. Kassam, the current favourite win, she said he would “yes, yes, absolutely” take the party in a “far right” direction, adding: “Our members don’t want that.”
The party had “taken a lot of stick” she also claimed, because “we had a more toxic image than we should have had”.
Reacting to the comments on ITV just moments later, Nigel Farage said: “You know, for her to talk about the party being toxic; for her to already declare one of the candidates whose running – Raheem Kassam – as being ‘far right’, I don’t view this as being a very good start”.
— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) October 23, 2016
Mr. Kassam added in a statement: “It is sad that 60 seconds after she launched her campaign on the BBC, Suzanne Evans attacked me and my thousands of supporters as ‘far right’. This is a project fear tactic and UKIPers are sick of these smears.
“But we’re going to rise above it. When she goes low, we go high, to quote Michelle Obama.
“I invite Suzanne Evans to meet with me at her earliest convenience to discuss her concerns, and how I think this party should be uniting to fight for Brexit, border control and more, and not attacking one another.”
Explaining her platform earlier, Mrs. Evans said she would “broaden” the party’s support by moving to the centre and claimed she had “the backing of our members”.
“I think I am the right person to lead UKIP into the challenges ahead – to beat the first past the post system that we have at the moment by broadening our appeal and getting MPs into Westminster.
“But, first and foremost, I think I am absolutely the right person to champion the cause of those 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union and are now seeing their democratic choice undermined by the political class.
“So, I absolutely want to be their champion; we’re seeing hundreds of MPs trying to overturn the verdict; we seeing activist lawyers trying to undermine the will of the people – and I want to say to them ‘don’t you dare’.”
She insisted she would be “breathing down their neck” and “pull us out to the EU exit door.”