Britain's Farage stays UKIP leader after resignation U-turn

11th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Nigel Farage will remain head of Britain's anti-EU UK Independence Party despite tendering his resignation after failing to become an MP in last week's general election, the party said Monday.

The party's National Executive Committee (NEC) refused Farage's resignation, saying that he had led UKIP's election campaign with "great success", despite the party winning only one seat in the House of Commons.

Farage said Friday there would be a leadership election in September, and that he was mulling whether to run, after having promised to step down if he failed to win the Thanet South constituency.

But the NEC "unanimously rejected" the offer, producing "overwhelming evidence that the UKIP membership did not want Nigel to go," said Steve Crowther, Chairman of UKIP.

"The NEC also concluded that UKIP's general election campaign had been a great success."

The party won almost four million votes across Britain in last week's general election -- a 12.6 percent share -- but that only translated into one parliamentary seat due to Britain's first-past-the-post voting system, whereby votes for losing candidates in each constituency count for nothing.

"We have fought a positive campaign with a very good manifesto and... four million votes was an extraordinary achievement," added Crowther.

"He (Farage) has therefore been persuaded by the NEC to withdraw his resignation and remains leader of UKIP."

Farage has been a constant thorn in the side of Prime Minister David Cameron, who was forced to tack to the right on EU and immigration for fear of losing backbenchers to UKIP.

The 51-year-old MEP has also clashed frequently with EU leaders, once comparing ex-European Council president Herman Van Rompuy to a "damp rag".

Having supported the Conservatives since his school days, he joined UKIP in 1993 as a founding member and was elected to the European Parliament in 1999, aged 35.

He became UKIP's leader in 2006 before standing down in 2009 and then being re-elected the following year, when UKIP's ascent really began.

Farage has not always been able to rein in party members, who have hit the headlines for a series of race-related gaffes.

UKIP has expelled a string of members and Farage himself sparked controversy in the leaders' debates by suggesting immigrants with the HIV virus should not receive treatment on the state-funded National Health Service.

UKIP's popularity under Farage played a major part in prompting Cameron to promise a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU, to take place by the end of 2017.

© 2015 AFP

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