Steven Woolfe, a prominent member of the UK Independence Party (UKIP or Ukip), is in the hospital after allegedly being punched by a colleague at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Today is Woolfe’s 49th birthday. Initial reports suggested he suffered a life-threatening injury and bleeding on the brain in the altercation, but updates now suggest that he is conscious and recovering.
Woolfe is the front-runner to replace Nigel Farage as UKIP party leader. Diane James was elected to head the party after long-time leader Farage stepped down following Brexit, but she quit the job after only 18 days, leaving the insurgent, anti-establishment party in chaos.
Woolfe, a lawyer and an elected member of the European Parliament, was considered Farage’s heir apparent but inexplicably submitted his nomination papers a few minutes too late to quality for the previous party vote. He announced this week that he is again running for the job.
The London Telegraph described what happened this morning.
“The favorite to become the next Ukip leader has collapsed outside the European Parliament amid reports he was punched by a colleague. Ukip said that Steven Woolfe collapsed outside the European Parliament following a ‘clear the air’ meeting with colleagues this morning. However party insiders told The Telegraph that Mr Woolfe was punched by a Ukip colleague following an altercation.”
Reports emerged this week that Woolfe, who is UKIP’s immigration expert and frequent TV spokesman, considered defecting to the Conservative Party, and this might have been the source of this morning’s scuffle.
Against this backdrop, there is widespread dissatisfaction in UKIP with the party’s executive committee that rejected Woolfe’s paperwork. About the executive committee, business mogul Aaron Banks, who has contributed big bucks to UKIP, declared, “This body is populated by a motley collection of amateurs…Watching them try to run the modern political movement that (Nigel) Farage built is like watching a team of circus clowns trying to carry out a pit stop at the Silverstone Grand Prix,” according to a Daily Mail report.
As leader of UKIP and a longtime member of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage worked tirelessly for more than two decades to extricate Britain from the European Union, which culminated in the successful vote for leave/out in the national referendum on June 23, 2016. Relentless pressure from Farage and UKIP — along with Euroskeptics in Prime Minister David Cameron’s own Conservative Party — is credited with compelling Cameron to authorize the Brexit referendum in the first place.
Cameron campaigned for the unsuccessful “remain” or stay side. He resigned shortly after the Brexit vote and was succeeded as U.K. prime minister by Theresa May.
Support for and opposition to Brexit crossed ideological boundaries in the U.K. For example, the leave position received the backing of a coalition across the populist left and right, with many Labor Party voters — who are somewhat equivalent to what was once called Reagan Democrats on this side of the Atlantic — voting for Brexit.
Some political observers in the U.K. believe that Nigel Farage and UKIP may have paved the way for Cameron and his Conservative (or Tory) Party to win the May 2015 parliamentary elections in a landslide. In that election (in which pollsters claimed that Labor had the upper hand), enough Labor voters went with UKIP instead, allowing Tory candidates to slip through in some districts, while in other constituencies, UKIP-leaners apparently voted tactically for the Conservative candidate to prevent Labor from forming a left-wing government in a coalition with the separatist Scottish National Party.
UKIP received about 4 million votes nationally, but because of the U.K.’s convoluted electoral system, gained only one seat in the House of Commons. Nigel Farage himself narrowly lost his bid to enter parliament in that election.
Steven Woolfe has just released a statement about his condition.
“The CT scan has shown that there is no blood clot in the brain. At the moment I am feeling brighter, happier and smiling as ever. As a precaution I am being kept in overnight awaiting secondary tests to make sure everything is fine. I am sitting up and said to be look well. The only consequence at the moment is a bit of numbness on the left hand side of my face.”
Watch this space for updates about UKIP’s Steven Woolfe.
Update from Nigel Farage:
[Featured Image by Alastair Grant/AP Images]