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Steven Woolfe injured after alleged fight with fellow Ukip MEP
MEP was taken to hospital in serious condition after collapsing, having apparently clashed with Mike Hookem
Ukip leadership candidate Steven Woolfe seriously ill – Politics live
Steven Woolfe. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Jessica Elgot Josh Halliday and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels
Thursday 6 October 2016 14.09 BST Last modified on Thursday 6 October 2016 14.58 BST
The Ukip leadership favourite, Steven Woolfe, has been taken to hospital in a serious condition after collapsing following an altercation during a meeting of the party’s MEPs in Strasbourg.
The North West England MEP is said to have been taken ill at the parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday after apparently being involved in a fight with fellow MEP Mike Hookem.
Ukip’s interim leader, Nigel Farage, said: “I deeply regret that following an altercation that took place at a meeting of Ukip MEPs this morning that Steven Woolfe subsequently collapsed and was taken to hospital. His condition is serious.”
A source close to the party said the altercation had followed a tense meeting of UKIP MEPs where Woolfe had been confronted by Hookem over reports that he had considered defecting to the Conservatives.
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The source said Hookem had “made a few choice words” to Woolfe about defecting to the Tories.
“Stephen Woolfe has then taken his jacket off, walked over and said, ‘Right you, outside now’ or words to that effect,” the source told the Guardian.
“They went outside and Stephen Woolfe got the brunt of it.”
It is understood that Woolfe walked away from the fight at around 10am and appeared well enough to vote half an hour later. However, Woolfe left the vote mid-way through and then collapsed before he was taken to hospital.
The source added that Woolfe is thought to be conscious and recovering well to hospital treatment. Nathan Gill, his fellow MEP and a close friend, is at Woolfe’s hospital bedside.
Later Farage told the Telegraph: “Things are mildly better. I have just spoken to Mr Woolfe and I will be going to visit him later this afternoon. We are still waiting for the results. I will be going go visit him in hospital.”
Raheem Kassam, Farage’s former adviser, had earlier said Woolfe’s condition was believed to be “life-threatening”.
Sources familiar with the incident said that Woolfe had been punched during the meeting of MEPs, but was not immediately taken ill. He subsequently collapsed as they went in to vote at the European parliament.
Ukip’s MEPs were invited to come and “clear the air” amid the crisis sparked by Diane James’s resignation as leader and Woolfe’s admission he had considered defecting to the Tories.
After an angry discussion, Woolfe is said to have asked a colleague to move the discussion outside the meeting, and to have been punched shortly afterwards.
The source told the Guardian that Farage was not the person who threw the punch.
After the incident, Woolfe reportedly told colleagues it had been “difficult” but did not tell them exactly what had happened and appeared well until he collapsed after going in to vote.
Neil Hamilton, Ukip’s leader in the Welsh assembly, said he had been told by colleagues in the European parliament that Woolfe had “picked a fight with one of them and came off worse”.
Hamilton told the BBC he had heard from a witness that Woolfe had bleeding on the brain, after he was knocked over and hit his head. “He toppled over and hit his head on a glass window so it must have been quite a wallop,” said Hamilton.
It is understood Woolfe, Farage and other MEPs had been meeting James, who left her post on Tuesday just 18 days after being elected.
Ukip spokesman Gawain Towler said: “Steven Woolfe MEP was taken suddenly ill in the European parliament building in Strasbourg this morning. He has been taken to hospital in the city and he is undergoing tests.”
Suzanne Evans, Ukip’s former deputy chair who is said to be considering her own leadership bid, tweeted: “Shocked to hear Steven Woolfe has apparently collapsed in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Wishing him well for a speedy recovery.”
Kassam, who is also running to be Ukip leader, said he was dropping out of an appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics out of respect for Woolfe. “I really hope Steven-Woolfe is okay. Plz send him your best wishes.”
Woolfe announced on Wednesday that he was reviving his bid to become Ukip leader after James quit. James had cited a lack of support from colleagues as she plunged the party into turmoil.
Woolfe was blocked from running in the previous contest to succeed Farage – for which he was the favourite – after submitting his forms 17 minutes late.
There had long been rumours Woolfe was poised to defect to the Tories, which he addressed in a statement released on Wednesday. “I have been enthused by the start to Theresa May’s premiership,” he said. “Her support of new grammar schools, her words on social mobility and the growing evidence that she is committed to a clean Brexit prompted me, as it did many of my friends and colleagues, to wonder whether our future was within her new Conservative party.
“However, having watched the prime minister’s speech on Sunday, I came to the conclusion that only a strong Ukip can guarantee Brexit is delivered in full, and only our party can stand up for
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