Ukip’s former deputy chairman has resigned, accusing leader Gerard Batten of moving the party “further and further to the right”.
MEP William Dartmouth, who has sat in the European Parliament as a Ukip MEP for South West England since 2009, said in his resignation letter that the party had come to be associated with “outlandish people and extreme right-wing groups”.
The former Tory peer hit out at Mr Batten, accusing his fellow MEP of having “hijacked the UK Independence Party”.
He said: “At a time when our founding cause of leaving the EU is at risk, you have chosen instead to campaign against Islam as a religion.
“You associate yourself, and therefore Ukip, with outlandish people and extreme right-wing groups.”
He added: “The work of all those who worked so hard in their support of Brexit is being devalued. To put it simply, you have hijacked the UK Independence Party.
“That is not the Ukip that I joined. It is not the Ukip that nearly four million people voted for in the previous general election.”
Lord Dartmouth said he could not “in good faith” continue to be a member of a party whose leader makes “abusive and offensive comments on Islam and the prophet Mohammed”.
Mr Batten has courted controversy for his repeated description of Islam as a “death cult”.
Asked about calling Islam a death cult on his personal blog, he previously stated: “It was propagated by invasion, by violence and intimidation. And if you look at every continent in the world where you have this belief, then you have violence. It glorifies death.”
Lord Dartmouth said that he would continue to sit in the European Parliament as an Independent MEP representing the South West and Gibraltar.
Ukip leader Gerard Batten responded to the resignation letter by calling on Lord Dartmouth to step down from the European Parliament.
He added: “It is customary when a colleague resigns to express regret. Sadly in this instance that would not be sincere since Lord Dartmouth has done very little if anything to further the interests of Ukip.
“He was one of those people recruited under previous leaders whose sympathies were more with the Conservative Party than with Ukip.
“Ukip is on the rise and we need people who are totally committed to helping us once again become an electoral force in domestic politics. The primary responsibility of our elected members is to do precisely that.”