Uk Independence Party leader Roger Knapman last night warned that the anti-EU party would descend into chaos if the former television presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk succeeded in his latest leadership bid.
Mr Knapman, one of the UKIP's two Euro-MPs in the South West, warned that senior figures in the party could not work with Mr Kilroy-Silk, whose supporters say he is close to pulling together the backing needed to trigger a leadership contest.
He suggested that a win for Mr Kilroy-Silk would provoke a constitutional crisis for the party as fellow MEPs would refuse to serve under him.
He added: "Some very hard things have been said and it has come to the stage where I and most of my fellow MEPs could not, under any circumstances, work with him again. In that respect the stakes are now rising dramatically."
Mr Kilroy-Silk was one of 12 UKIP members elected in the party's stunning breakthrough in June's European Parliament elections. But he quickly fell out with colleagues after repeatedly making it plain that he believed he should be leader.
Last month, Mr Kilroy-Silk withdrew from the party whip in the European Parliament. Since then he has taken part in a series of meetings with UKIP members across the country in a bid to drum up the support to trigger a leadership challenge.
Under UKIP's constitution, an emergency general meeting can be called if it is demanded by one-fifth of the party's 223 constituency chairmen. An aide to Mr Kilroy-Silk told the WMN that he now had the support of more than 50 local party chairmen.
But a letter has not yet been received by the party's ruling committee. Mr Knapman said it remained far from clear whether Mr Kilroy-Silk had the support needed.
Source: Western Morning News, Plymouth, November 27th 2004