Tommy Robinson is currently banned from becoming a member by party rules but has been inciting his supporters to join UKIP so they can influence its policies. Earlier Sputnik spoke to MEP Bill Etheridge one of the members who quit UKIP about the future of the party under Gerard Batten and Tommy Robinson.
Bill Etheridge: What he has done is he has gone against the promises he made when he took over the party. He promised people including me that he would be focused solely on Brexit, a subject that he is very good on and his other hobby horse would wait.
He also said after Brexit there would be a leadership election which he or may not stand in, then we could decide and discuss the other matters. What he has done in a quick time, very efficiently changed the whole shape of the party, membership of the party has changed and the direction has been radically changed. All this without a mandate without ever being voted in.
Sputnik: Is there a worry that the current approach is taking UKIP away from what gained them popularity & support under previous leaders and destroying the party?
Bill Etheridge: I can exactly what is happening as in the echo chamber of social media among the people that are passionate about the issues that Mr Batten raises, he is being lorded as a hero, and he is obviously thinking that's a good thing.
There's been an increase in the membership, not a significant one; he is seeing that as a success. What he doesn't understand as he doesn't have experience knocking doors and trying to speak to the general public, the general public doesn't go for this approach, they need a more rounded approach to things.
They need something that's less prejudice and hateful to things and he is scaring off voters from UKIP and because UKIP is associated with Brexit, he is personally damaging the cause of Brexit and that is even more important. He is damaging our national interest by taking UKIP down this route.
Sputnik: Could the party be willing to support Tommy Robinson if he was allowed to join and possibly one day be a leader?
Bill Etheridge: I think with the change in the membership under Mr Batten because many thousands have left and many more thousands have joined and they are more akin to Gerard's approach, I think there is a very strong chance that one day Tommy Robinson will one day be allowed to join and would win a leadership vote.
I think UKIP would have been better staying true to its liberty and freedom loving principles and Tommy Robinson and his supporters and anyone else who believes in that should have formed their own party.
Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Bill Etheridge and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.