UK INDEPENDENCE Party officials in Bolton are preparing to go to war with the party's leadership after being told their branch has been wound up.
Regional bosses have said they no longer recognise the local organisation after committee members accused their leaders of "intimidation and bullying" relating to the power struggle between party boss Roger Knapman and their celebrity MEP, Robert Kilroy-Silk, who resigned from UKIP last week.
Chairman Mike Ford, vice-chariman Tony Backhouse, press officer Ian Upton and the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Bolton North-east, Alan Ainscow, quit the committee amid claims that undue pressure was being put on them not to hold an extraordinary general meeting, which it was thought would result in a call for a leadership contest.
Bolton committee members now claim they will go to court to seek an injunction preventing the party from replacing them with a new organisation and have warned that around 70 members could walk out and transfer their allegiance if Robert Kilroy-Silk sets up his own political party.
It is believed that would be called Veritas.
Mr Kilroy-Silk left UKIP accusing the party of having no policies, energy or vision.
Mr Upton said infighting in the party, which enjoyed unprecedented success in last June's European elections, was tearing it apart. He accused UKIP's leaders of using regional organisers to try and bully local activists into line.
Mr Upton said: "I suspect if the Bolton committee decides to work with another party then I'm sure the majority of members will follow them.
"The party is falling apart because the leadership will not realise that branches will not be bullied into submission.
"The branch has been suspended but we believe this is illegal because it has come from the regional organisers and not the chairman of the national executive committee, Petrina Holdsworth - and there is still a committee structure in place."
He added that in a recent ballot 75 per cent of local members voted for an extraordinary meeting but claimed that committee members had been warned that senior national figures would resign if the Bolton branch went ahead with it.
Bolton is considered to be the party's most active and influential branch in the north of England.
Mr Ainscow said he had resigned his membership last week. He said: "The UKIP leadership has done nothing since the election and when we started being threatened and intimidated by the regional office I felt I could not go on."
Gregg Beaman, UKIP's north-west organiser, denied that bullying had taken place.
He said: "Following the resignations, the committee was no longer viable. We will do everything we can to relaunch the committee."