The controversial anti-Islam activist, Anne-Marie Waters’ leadership candidacy is threatening the unity of the UK Independent Party after 18 out of 20 MEPs have threatened to leave if she wins.
Senior UKIP members has stated that a victory for a candidate like Ms Waters might be the end of the party.
Former leader, Nigel Farage, said that “if UKIP goes down the route of being a party that is anti the religion of Islam, then frankly it’s finished.”
Ms Waters is the director of Sharia Watch UK and the co-founder of Pegida UK – a far-right group that has an overt anti-Islam agenda.
Her Islamophobic rhetoric ranges from championing a ban on the burqa to freezing all immigration. She also described Islam as an “evil” religion.
Ms Waters has also said that she would not prevent far-right activists like Tommy Robinson from joining UKIP, though the party’s constitution prohibits individuals belonging to far-right groups like the English Defence League (EDL) and the British Nationalist Party (BNP).
However, another candidate in the UKIP leadership race, Peter Whittle, has said that people who are currently or have previously been with far-right groups should not be allowed to join their party.
Though Mr Whittle is generally anti-Islam himself, he argued it was important to prioritise delivering Brexit for the British people instead of focusing on the “Islamification” of the UK.
Initially, no less than 11 candidates were cleared to stand in the leadership contest to succeed Paul Nuttall.
Yet, the number has decreased after the “UKIP United” team feared a divided vote and did not want to risk a win for Ms Waters.
Subsequently, four candidates joined their leadership bid in an alliance led by Jane Collins to block Ms Waters from winning.
Voting will occur over the next few weeks, and an announcement of the new leader will take place at the party’s annual conference in Torquay on the 29 and 30 of September.