Ukip in meltdown as senior figures call on Nigel Farage to quit

Ukip today descended into meltdown, after an extroardinary bout of public infighting between Nigel Farage and several senior figures in the party.

The day began with a personal attack on Farage from Ukip's economics spokesperson Patrick O'Flynn. O'Flynn told the Times that Farage was a "snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive man" who had surrounded himself with an equally "aggressive" and "inexperienced" cadre of young advisers.

His comments were soon followed by calls from one of Ukip's biggest donors Stuart Wheeler for Farage to stand down. Wheeler told the BBC that "I don't believe he should be the leader now. He's been a terrific leader, but the great thing now is to win the in-out of Europe referendum. And I think we now need a softer approach".

He was joined by former Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom who urged the "extremely tired and stressed" Farage to resign.

The day ended with Farage's chief of staff Raheem Kassam reportedly being forced to stand down. However, there remain severe doubts about Farage's chances of clinging on as leader.

O'Flynn's blistering attack followed Farage's decision to renege on his pre-election pledge to stand down as Ukip leader if he failed to win South Thanet in last week's general election.

Farage claims his offer of a resignation was rejected by party members. However, others have claimed the Ukip leader "forced" the party executive to turn it down.

O'Flynn told the Times that the whole episode had been a "fiasco".

"What's happened since Thursday night, Friday morning has certainly laid us open to the charge that this looks like an absolutist monarchy or a personality cult," he said.

"I don't think that even Nigel would say it's been the most glorious chapter of his leadership."

He added that the party needed to reflect on why Farage had failed to win in South Thanet.

"The team around Nigel himself need to reflect why it was that Thanet voted in a Ukip council but didn't vote in Nigel as the MP for Thanet South," he added.

O'Flynn is the second most senior figure in the party to defy Farage in recent days.

Earlier this week, Ukip's only remaining MP Douglas Carswell ignited a huge row in the party after refusing to accept over £600,000 of publicly-funded "Short money" allocated to the parliamentary party.

Carswell rejected calls to accept the money on principle, saying that it was well in excess of what he needed to fulfil his parliamentary work. Those around Farage had expected Carswell to divert the money for wider campaigning purposes, something Carswell refused to do.

Carswell has become increasingly distant from Farage in recent months. He was believed to have been uncomfortable with comments by Farage about migrants with HIV. Carswell's father was a pioneer in HIV research and treatment in Africa.

The MP has been widely tipped as a possible replacement for Farage. Asked repeatedly to back Farage's decision to renege on his resignation pledge earlier this week, Carswell declined to do.

Former Ukip MEP Godrfrey Bloom today called for Farage to stand down and hand over the reins to Carswell.

"Nigel said he should resign and I think that was the right thing," he told the BBC

"This was the seventh time he's failed to win a seat. I think Ukip need to sit down and change their strategy and there should be a leadership election.

"[Nigel] is clearly now an extremely stressed and tired man. Time for him to move over."

Asked whether he agreed with O'Flynn's description of Farage as "thin-skinned" he replied

"[Nigel] wouldn't pretend that his best skill is man-management that's for sure.

"He is rather capable of some abrasive behaviour, which is why the party started off with 13 MEPs and ended up with five. He is not a man-manager. He is not a team player. He is popular with the membership but sooner or later they are going to have to decide whether they want someone who is popular with a Ukip conference hall, or popular with the electorate."

In extraordinary comments, he appeared to liken Farage to Adolf Hitler.

"You do not criticise the leadership and stay in office… Any criticism of Ukip is seen as disloyal to the cause and we saw that did we not in the 1930s."

The new rift between senior members of the party follows Ukip's disappointing performance in the general election.

Farage had promised his party they would gain up to 40 seats across the country. Instead the party actually went backwards, losing one of the two seats they previously held.

The party now faces the prospect of losing it's very purpose for existence after David Cameron suggested he wanted to bring forward a referendum on the EU to next year. Current polls suggest support for staying in Europe is at a recent high.

Those around Farage believe that failure to win the referendum would not necessarily spell the end for the party, citing the huge rise in support for the SNP following their referendum failure last year.

Farage was today defended by leading donor Aaron Banks who attacked the "little clique" who had turned on the Ukip leader.