A SENIOR Ukip politician has resigned from his party following a scuffle with a protester during the election campaign.
County councillor Tony Hooke – arrested in May in connection with an assault – says he quit Ukip to avoid discrediting it should he be charged in the run-up to next year’s General Election.
His arrest came after an incident between members of the party and protesters at a meeting at Portsmouth’s Guildhall on April 28 which had been attended by party leader Nigel Farage and launched Ukip’s breakthrough election campaign.
Cllr Hooke, who has been an outspoken politician since being elected in May last year, told the Daily Echo he was innocent of the crime.
He said: “I never wanted to resign from the party. I love the party to bits and all the people who work for it. It has been a very difficult decision but there is going to be a lot of flak flying my way.
“They are determined to have me nailed. The last thing I want is this happening in the run-up to the General Election.”
Cllr Hooke will now continue as an independent council for Andover.
But losing a councillor will come as a blow to his former party following their stellar success in the local and European elections in May.
This saw a new councillor elected to Fareham Borough Council after he won the Stubbington ward and the Liberal Democrats lost control of Portsmouth as Ukip gained six seats.
Following former county group chief Ray Finch’s election as a Euro MP, Waterside county councillor Philip Fawkes has taken over.
New Hampshire UKIP leader Philip Fawkes
Cllr Fawkes said it was unfortunate Cllr Hooke quit, but he insisted the party had to move on: “It is not something I would have chosen to happen in my first week as leader. But I respect his views and wishes to become an independent.
“He has not been asked to resign or has he been disciplined, it all very amicable and there is no animosity.
“Clearly we don’t want anyone to bring the party into disrepute, but this is not the case with Councillor Hooke. He may well have been arrested but he has not been charged.”
County council leader Roy Perry said the assault allegation was a police matter, but he said he had instructed the county council solicitor to investigate whether Cllr Hooke was in breach of the councillors’ code of conduct over the whitewash allegations made about the chief constable.
He said: “It is an outrageous suggestion. The allegations about the county’s chief constable being involved in a conspiracy was a terrible thing.
“His behaviour has not been a credit to himself, his party or the county council.”
Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry
County council opposition Lib Dem leader Keith House said: “Ukip were always to fall apart at Hampshire but nobody thought it would happen so quickly.
“Only the Liberal Democrats offer a strong opposition to the Conservatives in Hampshire.”