Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn has stepped down as the party’s economic spokesman and apologised to leader Nigel Farage for publicly calling him “snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive”.
The former journalist told colleagues he felt “sincere regret” for giving a hostile newspaper interview amid controversy within the ranks over Farage continuing in his role despite promising to quit if he failed to win a Commons seat.
After announcing that he was tendering his resignation as leader, the party’s executive rejected it.
O’Flynn’s comments led to open party warfare, with several senior Ukip figures calling for Farage to stand down while others lined up to defend him and two key officials lost their jobs.
Addressing a meeting of MEPs, he 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 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.”
Farage had promised to resign the leadership if he lost the Thanet South constituency at the general election and followed through on his pledge within minutes of defeat being confirmed. The U-turn came after party officials said he retained strong backing from party members.
But after the shock reverse, O’Flynn told The Times Ukip was at risk of being turned into a “personality cult”.
The party’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell, urged the leader to “take a break” after a campaign that saw the party secure over 12% of the vote share but end up with only one Commons seat.
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