MEP Bloom to sit as independent
Godfrey Bloom will no longer represent Ukip in the European Parliament after accepting he must sit as an independent in the wake of comments calling women "sluts" and an altercation with a TV reporter.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he did not want Mr Bloom kicked out of the party, insisting he had not crossed the lines of racism or extremism - adding he was "sorry" events had reached this stage.
Yorkshire and Humber MEP Mr Bloom, who also sparked controversy recently by talking about aid to "bongo bongo land", insisted he will retain his party membership and will work to see candidate Jane Collins elected for the party in the region next year.
Mr Bloom had the whip suspended last week after calling women at a conference fringe event "sluts" and hitting a TV journalist with a copy of the brochure for the gathering in Westminster. A formal disciplinary hearing had been scheduled to determine Mr Bloom's fate but the MEP pre-empted the outcome with his statement.
He said: "I have felt for some time now that the new Ukip is not really right for me anymore perhaps than New Labour was right for Denis 'The beast of Bolsover' Skinner. However our message is clear: self government. Our wonderful and loyal membership will win through with their dedication and hard work. It has been a pleasure to work with them for 15 years.
"May I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the thousands of people who have supported me with messages of goodwill in the recent months and particularly in recent days. There have been simply too many to make a personal response, forgive me.
"I shall sit out my term as an independent and give my wholehearted support to Jane Collins who is almost certainly going to be the next Ukip MEP and probably a second seat yet to be decided. I shall of course retain my membership."
In a BBC interview, Mr Farage said: "I'm very sorry it has come to this, he's been with us for 15 years, he's sat in the European Parliament since 2004, he absolutely 100% believes in everything Ukip stands for and he's been a good, loyal MEP for us. It's a sorry state of affairs.
"All the things Godfrey has said have not been meant in malice but they have all been tremendous distractions from the main messages Ukip is trying to push out... nearly everything he has said has been meant as a joke. I don't want to see him hounded out of the party... we're very clear, racism, extremism, we wouldn't tolerate anything like that."
Mr Farage added: "I don't believe in hounding people out of organisations unless they have breached the line on extremism - he most certainly has not done that."