Farage row: Senior Ukip figures try to drag party to the centre

The battle over Ukip's soul continued today after an influential figure in the party suggested it needed to moderate its language if it was to achieve greater electoral success.

Speaking in the wake of a bruising week for Nigel Farage, deputy chairman Suzanne Evans said it was right that two of his advisors had left the party and raised concerns about the way her leader had talked about HIV-positive immigrants.

The interview comes days after Raheem Kassam and Matthew Richardson, both from Farage's inner circle, were forced to resign following a blistering attack from Ukip economic spokesman Patrick O'Flynn.

"We've had some problems with advisors around Nigel," Evans told the Andrew Marr programme.

Evans said the two men based their political strategy on a more aggressively right-wing agenda, similar to the US tea party.

"They are trying to take the party back to what it was like several years ago. The manifesto was very centrist, very compassionate, very balanced and that's where he [Nigel] wants to take the party."

Asked about Farage's much-criticised comments about HIV-positive immigrants getting treatment on the NHS, Evans pointedly replied: "There's a very serious debate to be had about health tourism, but there are ways of saying it."

Relations between Evans, O'Flynn and Douglas Carswell on the one hand, and Nigel Farage on the other, are understood to be frosty following the outbreak of internecine fighting last week.

Media reports suggest O'Flynn is about to lose his role as economics spokesman, while Farage hung up the phone in anger on Evans when she called last week.

Carswell repeatedly refused to comment on Farage's so-called 'unresignation' last week, in a move which was seen as evidence of his growing exasperation with the Ukip leader. He is also engaged in a row on parliamentary party funding.

Many eurosceptics believe Farage, who is hugely effective with a large minority of the electorate but alienates many moderate voters, could be a significant hindrance to the 'out' camp during the EU referendum.

Figures within Ukip are also debating whether a less aggressive, right-wing leader would be able to attract a broader swathe of voters.

Evans is seen as a more reasonable and centrist figure, while Carswell has a much more positive view of multiculturalism and immigration. O'Flynn is economically to the left of the party's mainstream.

Evans said this morning: "We've got to look at why we only got one member of parliament."

Despite the war of words, Farage remains overwhelmingly the most powerful figure in the party and most observers expect him to come out on top in the current bout of in-fighting.