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UKIP’s ex-economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn is leaving the party, blaming what he called leader Gerard Batten’s “fixation with Tommy Robinson”.
He is joining the Social Democratic Party, claiming UKIP had become an “impediment to Brexit campaigning”.
Mr O’Flynn claimed many members had left because of the decision to employ the EDL co-founder as a party adviser.
Mr Batten says Mr Robinson will help him turn UKIP into a “mass movement … a party for ordinary people”.
In a statement on his website, Mr O’Flynn said that when he asked himself who the “millions of sensible, moderate Brexit voters betrayed by establishment parties” should vote for, the answer was “clearly not UKIP”.
He is joining the Social Democratic Party – best known as the SDP – as its sole MEP.
Image caption Gerard Batten has said the media is “obsessed” with Tommy Robinson
Mr O’Flynn said UKIP had decided to put off a decision on former BNP and EDL members joining the party until after the UK leaves the EU.
But Mr Batten had made Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, his policy adviser on rape gangs and prison reform at “this vital stage of the battle for Brexit”.
Mr O’Flynn added: “Without any mandate from the membership or the party’s elected ruling body to go down this path, Gerard is transforming what UKIP stands for and offers to voters. Many longstanding party members have already left as a result.”
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Of his new party, Mr O’Flynn said: “I have decided to join the resurgent SDP, which campaigned for Brexit during the referendum and espouses broad and moderate pro-nation state political values that I – and I believe many of our voters from 2014 – will be delighted to endorse.”
He said this would allow him to make a “bigger contribution to the cause I was elected to pursue”.
Mr O’Flynn was elected as a UKIP MEP for the East of England in 2014, and came fifth in the Cambridge seat in the 2015 general election.
The former Daily Express and Birmingham Post political editor was UKIP’s economics spokesman until 2015, and also held the party’s media and sport brief.
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Media captionIn the 2015 election campaign, Patrick O’Flynn announces how UKIP would save money, to spend more on the NHS and commit to spend 2% of the UK’s GDP on defence
The SDP was set up by Labour’s “gang of four”