Paul Nuttall blasted by two Ukip chairmen… and voters in Stoke
The Ukip leader's week from hell continues...
Paul Nuttall has suffered a major blow just days before the key Stoke-on-Trent by-election, with two Ukip chairmen from his own local branch quitting the party over the Hillsborough furore.
Stuart Monkcom and Adam Hetherington, who chair Ukip Liverpool and Merseyside respectively, accused the Ukip leader of "crass insensitivity" and not being "fit to lead".
The row flared up after Nuttall admitted that claims on his website about losing "close personal friends" during the disaster were untrue. A Ukip press officer, Lynda Roughly, took the blame for the mistakes and offered to resign from her job.
This morning's resignations from two members of his own party undermine Nuttall's claims that the controversy has been inflated as part of a "smear campaign" from his political opponents.
In a joint resignation statement Monkcom condemned the party's handling of the issue.
"Although the timing of our resignations is unfortunate in light of upcoming elections, both Adam and I wish to make it clear, where the painful subject of Hillsborough is concerned, with closure not yet in sight, this unprofessional approach and crass insensitivity from high profile people closely within and without Ukip is upsetting and intolerable," he said.
"We identify most strongly with all the good people of Liverpool and most importantly the families of the Hillsborough victims who have fought so hard and long for justice, in their condemnation of the way Ukip has handled these issues."
But he also made broader criticisms of Nuttall's leadership, saying:
"I felt supporting a libertarian party was the right thing to do in order to affect change in the political system in this country. Unfortunately that dream has been shattered and the potential of Ukip has been squandered by people who have demonstrated they are not fit to lead."
The resignations come at the worst possible time for the embattled leader, who is facing a tough fight with Labour in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.
Voters in the Staffordshire constituency go to the polls this Thursday in what former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said would be a "fundamental" test for his party.
But Labour insiders are now increasingly confident that the party can see off Nuttall after a disastrous few days for the Ukip leader.
Their hopes have also been bolstered by a number of anti-Ukip signs that have been spotted in the windows of voters’ homes.
One sign asked the party not to post “any bullshit Ukip propaganda, as it will be used for wiping our arses on”.
Another sign requesting no Ukip leaflets stated: “At times like this it makes me think of what my grandad used to do to help make Britain Great and that was shoot Nazi’s [sic] and Fascists during the war and if I read any more of your gibberish I feel I may wish to do the same because however you try to dress it up that’s basically what you are.”
Devolution anniversary prompts former PM to talk about plan that would see Celtic, Chelsea, Rangers and Newcastle in the same league
Former leader warms up for this weekend's annual conference with a blast at his party
Frances O'Grady wasn't feeling festive as she laid into government approach to Brexit
The Lib Dem leader says the PM buried evidence that undermines her immigration claims