Ukip divided over anti-Islam leadership candidate

Anne Marie Waters founded the Sharia Watch pressure group Credit: PA

An anti-Islam activist has been approved to stand in the Ukip leadership election, exposing divisions in the party.

Former Labour activist Anne Marie Waters is the founder of the Sharia Watch pressure group and has previously called Islam "evil".

Her candidacy is controversial and several members have threatened to quit if she is elected party leader.

Shortly after the party's national executive committee cleared Waters as a candidate, Ukip MEP Mike Hookem quit his post as party's deputy whip in the European parliament, saying that he was not prepared to "turn a blind eye" to extremism.

Separately Peter Whittle, the party's deputy leader who will stand against Waters, defended her right to run.

"The whole thing was done very rigorously," Whittle, who is seen as the favourite to win the election race, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"There was a vetting process. We all had to go through it and if you all get through that then you absolutely have the right to stand. That means Anne Marie should be able to stand."

Deputy leader Peter Whittle is seen as favourite to win Ukip's leadership race Credit: PA

Here is the full list of candidates in the Ukip leadership race:

  • David Allen

  • Henry Bolton

  • David Coburn

  • Jane Collins

  • David Kurten

  • Marion Mason

  • Aidan Powlesland

  • John Rees-Evans

  • Ben Walker

  • Anne Marie Waters

  • Peter Whittle

The Ukip contest was triggered by the resignation of Paul Nuttall, who is standing down following the collapse of the party's vote in the general election in June.

Ballot papers will be issued on September 1 and the new leader will be announced at Ukip's conference in Torquay on September 29.