Ukip’s former leader Nigel Farage has accused the party’s only MP of preventing it from becoming a radical anti-immigration party.
In an increasingly hostile war of words with Douglas Carswell, Farage said the Clacton MP, who defected from the Conservatives to Ukip in 2014, had undermined his attempts to equate EU membership with increased levels of immigration.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme amid reports that Carswell is in talks with the Tories about switching back, Farage said: “The time has now come to have a clean break.
To make sure we don’t have influences like Carswell taking us away from the key arguments like immigration.
“There have been some in Ukip who want to turn us into a mainstream political party with very bland messages and I would say Ukip is a radical party or it is nothing.
“This question of immigration is still the number one issue in the minds of voters in this country.
Ukip must not be squeamish about it.
People like Douglas Carswell wrote in the Times last year we should not make immigration synonymous with EU membership.
I thought, ‘Crikey, I have spent 10 years trying to do that very thing’.”
Farage denied his calls for Carswell to be expelled from Ukip were motivated by reports that the MP had attempted to block Farage from getting a knighthood.
Leaked emails showed Carswell joking that Farage should be given an OBE “for services to headline writers”. Farage initially ducked the question, saying: “I dislike him because he has damaged me, Ukip and the leave campaign.”
Asked a third time whether Carswell’s attempt to block a possible knighthood was motivating his animosity, Farage said: “No, I’ve been campaigning to get rid of him for a very long time.”
But he was coy about whether he wanted to become “Sir Nigel”.Asked whether he wanted a knighthood, he said: “Not particularly.” But while he ruled out a peerage, he added: “If something else came along I might accept it.”
Carswell has played down reports that he is on the verge of returning to the Tory fold. “I’m Ukip 100%” he told the Guardian.
On Monday night, Carswell said he had had an “amicable” meeting with Ukip’s chair, Paul Oakden, and was happy to continue to represent the party in the House of Commons.
But one Tory MP told the Guardian that while it would “infuriate some colleagues”, they did believe it was likely that Carswell would switch back from Ukip.
Farage accused Carswell of being “against most of the key principles that Ukip stands for” and said he threatened to undermine the current leader, Paul Nuttall.
He said: “We should have got rid of him back in 2015 when he pretty much sabotaged a media attempt of mine at a European summit.”
Farage said he had no power to expel Carswell from the party.
He said: “It is not my decision. I have no executive position in the party at all. But I think that our own NEC now needs to do this.”
A Ukip source said Oakden had been asked to meet Carswell to establish the facts behind the leaked email row, but the MP was not subject to formal disciplinary proceedings.
“The matter of whether a party member remains a member of the party is a matter for the NEC,” the source said.
“Nigel said this morning he wanted to expel Douglas in 2015. But it was impossible to do, because the party leader does not have that power. Neither does Paul Nuttall. It is not in Paul’s gift, because if a party leader had that sort of power, the possibility of dictatorial control would be appalling. That’s why all parties have processes and systems to ensure fair play. There is no formal process to kick him out of the party or discipline him, it is a fact-finding exercise.”
Asked about Ukip’s future as Britain begins to leave the EU, Farage said: “We are the turkeys that have voted for Christmas.
“At the moment there is huge trust in Theresa May to deliver Brexit, but I think already we are beginning to see concessions being made, over fishing, the fact that she wants to stay in the European arrest warrant. My guess is that a year down the road, there will be a lot of people who are very frustrated with the Brexit process. So Ukip needs to bide its time and get its messages right.”
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