A Ukip whip has quit in protest just hours after a vehement anti-Islam campaigner was cleared to stand in the party’s leadership election.
Mike Hookem, the aptly-named fisheries spokesman, resigned his job as deputy whip in the European Parliament after chief whip Stuart Agnew declared his support for Anne Marie Waters.
Ms Waters has branded Islam “evil” and a “killing machine”, said “they want to kill us” and claims “we’re losing the western world”.
Yet she sailed through the party’s vetting process and is now one of 11 candidates for the leadership election in September.
Her rivals include David Kurten, who suggested gay people were more likely to be abused as kids, and John Rees Evans, who would not explicitly back abortion for mums who would die otherwise.
Other rivals include Aidan Powlseland, who wants to mine the asteroid belt and have flying aircraft carriers, David Coburn, the Scottish Ukip leader who wants Brexit to get “proper toast” back, and bookies’ favourite Peter Whittle, who backs a burqa ban and forcing schools to display Union flags and photos of the Queen.
In a statement, Mr Hookem said he was not prepared to “turn a blind eye to extreme views”.
“I strongly disagree with the views Ms Waters and Mr Agnew promote and I would like to put as much distance between me and them as possible,” he said.
“If I were to continue in my position of deputy whip, I would be seen as supporting or at the very least turning a blind eye to extreme views and this is not something I am prepared to do.
“I am not a racist and have never campaigned on race issues. While I do believe in controlled immigration, this position is about ‘space rather than race’; and I am not prepared to support someone who seeks to single out a section of our society simply due to their religious beliefs.”
He added: “If I’m bluntly honest, I do not feel I can support any candidate in the current leadership race, including my two MEP colleagues. In my opinion none of them measure up to what is, and will continue to be an extremely difficult job.”
Mr Hookem was famously involved in a bust-up with former UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe that left him in hospital.
His resignation came after Ukip deputy leader Mr Whittle defended Ms Waters’ right to be a candidate.
“The whole thing was done very rigorously. There was a vetting process. We all had to go through it and if you all get through that then you absolutely have the right to stand. That means Anne Marie should be able to stand,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
But Mr Hookem said he was disturbed by comments by Mr Agnew that he “looks forward to telling his grandchildren in the future how he helped in the fight against Muslims.”
Ms Waters’ candidacy has divided the party, with some members threatening to quit, while former leader Nigel Farage has warned Ukip will be “finished” if it goes down the road of becoming an anti-Islam party.
There are an estimated 1.6billion Muslims in the world. Yet in a sweeping generalisation Ms Waters claimed Islam is “the religion that killed [our children]”.
At a rally in June she was cheered by right-wing activists as she said: “Every time we are killed, every time our children are killed, our Parliament responds by protecting the religion that killed them.
“We’ve had enough of this. Those children were killed for one reason, and that reason is Sharia law. Sharia law is a killing machine. Islam is a killing machine.
“We have had enough of this. They want to kill us, they want to subjugate us, they want to enslave us.”
She told another event “we’re losing the western world,” saying: “There is not a chance I would backpack through Germany on my own, not a chance.
“If you look at France – no-go areas. Sweden, its officialdom may deny the rape crisis but it’s real.”
She added: “We the British need to decide who we are.”
Ukip’s new leader will be announced on September 29.