UKIP economic spokesman quits, criticising libertarian faction

Patrick O’Flynn MEP, who resigned today as UKIP economic spokesman

UKIP economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn – an MEP for Eastern England who was formerly Political Editor of the Daily Express – has resigned.

While most UKIP news recently has focused on the increasingly influential group in the party that is obsessed with Islam and seeks to take UKIP in an EDL or Pegida-style direction, O’Flynn’s resignation is prompted by a very different split – his disagreement with the ultra-Thatcherite ‘libertarians’ in the party.

O’Flynn said in his resignation statement today:
“It is clear to me that UKIP’s activist base wishes to go in a more libertarian, shrink-the-state and Thatcherite direction when it comes to economic policy.
“Ever since becoming prominent in the party, I have argued for UKIP to be at the common sense centre of politics, rather than allowing itself to be defined as on the right wing. For example, I have sought support for tough measures to combat corporate tax avoidance and proposed a premium rate of VAT for luxury goods in order to make that tax more equitable. I have also championed more resources for the NHS, arguing against those in the party who would prefer to run healthcare on private insurance lines.”

The libertarian faction criticised by O’Flynn advocates policies that might go down well on golf courses and in Rotary Clubs across southern England, but which would kill off any chance of challenging Labour in its northern working-class heartlands.

It remains to be seen which strand of UKIP will dominate in the new movement planned by former leader Nigel Farage and his financial backer Arron Banks.

John Rees-Evans, third favourite in this year’s UKIP leadership election, at a hustings during last November’s contest

One of UKIP’s leading libertarians – West Midlands MEP and ex-Tory Bill Etheridge – announced this week that he was withdrawing his nomination for UKIP leader.  Etheridge is bitterly opposed to the two anti-Islamist candidates for leader, London Assembly member Peter Whittle and former Pegida UK deputy leader Anne Marie Waters.

The Guardian today picked up on the story reported by H&D eleven days ago, that Ms Waters’ campaign is being run by former BNP member Jack Buckby.

While a groundswell of members has built up behind the anti-Islamist agenda, making Whittle and Waters the two favourites, most of UKIP’s leading members (including almost all its MEPs) are appalled by the prospect of the party becoming a political wing of the EDL.  They have no clear front-runner to back, but perhaps the most likely challenge to Whittle and Waters is from John Rees-Evans, a Welsh businessman who polled 18.1% in last year’s leadership contest that was won by Paul Nuttall.

A late entrant in the race and potential dark horse is Henry Bolton, former military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism expert, who was UKIP’s candidate last year for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner.

Dark horse UKIP leadership candidate Henry Bolton has extensive experience as a military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism expert

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