UKIP leader Gerard Batten has accused his predecessor Nigel Farage of "smearing" the party, while defending his own links to Tommy Robinson. He said Mr Farage, who launched the rival Brexit Party on Friday, wanted to "discredit" UKIP by claiming Mr Batten was condoning violence by working with the ex-English Defence League leader. He said UKIP had always been, and would remain, a "non-racist" organisation.
While not a member, Mr Robinson was a "useful source of research", he said. Mr Farage quit UKIP earlier this year in protest at the direction of the Eurosceptic party, saying it had become obsessed under Mr Batten's leadership with the threat Islam posed to UK society.
Launching his new party on Friday, Mr Farage said the UKIP leader's decision to appoint Mr Robinson as an adviser on grooming gangs and prison conditions tarnished his former party and associated it with "extremism, violence, criminal records and thuggery". Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been banned from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for violating its policies on hate speech.
The political activist has served prison sentences for a number of offences but is regarded as a freedom of speech champion by his supporters. He was jailed for contempt of court last year, a conviction that was later quashed on procedural grounds.