UKIP leader Gerard Batten has won the overwhelming backing of his party’s national executive after his controversial appointment of Tommy Robinson as an adviser.
Members voted against the commencement of a no confidence procedure in Batten but also refused to endorse Robinson in his new role.
The convicted criminal and English Defence League (EDL) founder had been brought in by Batten to advise on grooming gangs and prison reform.
But UKIP’s NEC insisted that Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – remains banned along with other former EDL and British National Party members.
Batten’s partial victory on Sunday came after former leader Nigel Farage called for him to be subject to the confidence vote over the Robinson issue.
The new leader has been accused of dragging the party towards the far-right, describing Islam as a ‘death cult’ and joining an extremist march.
He and Robinson are now expected to speak at a pro-Brexit demonstration in London this Sunday which UKIP has not organised but says members can attend.
Farage has condemned the protest and said any perceived UKIP backing for the event would make the party appear to welcome racists.
Speaking on his LBC radio show, he added: “If this march goes ahead with Gerard Batten as the leader of UKIP, then UKIP becomes the new BNP.”
Farage told the Mail on Sunday that he is considering leaving the party over Robinson’s appointment and Batten’s planned presence at this week’s demonstration.
He said Robinson was a figure who “attracts around him a group of thugs.”
Former UKIP economics spokesman Patrick O’Flynn defected from the party to join the SDP last week in protest at the Robinson appointment.
The MEP accused Batten of having a ‘fixation’ with Robinson and claimed many other UKIP members have quit over Batten’s decision to bring him in.
UKIP has been in turmoil at the top since Farage stood down in 2016 and has had four leaders and two interim leaders since then.
Robinson was jailed for 13 months in May for contempt of court, but his conviction was later quashed for procedural reasons.
The case was referred to the Attorney General for a decision on whether or not it should proceed.
He has served two other jail sentences in the past, one for mortgage fraud and another for a passport offence.
Batten said of Robinson’s appointment: “He’s a good person to have on side, a lot of people respect his stand on things and his courage.”