UKIP's Nigel Farage condemns MEP 'altercation' and launches inquiry

A handout picture shows MEP Steven Woolfe lying face-down on a walkway inside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg in eastern France.
A handout picture shows MEP Steven Woolfe lying face-down on a walkway inside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg in eastern France.PHOTO: AFP
Mr Steven Woolfe from the UK Independence Party was admitted to a Strasbourg hospital on Thursday (Oct 6) after an "altercation" during a meeting.
Mr Steven Woolfe from the UK Independence Party was admitted to a Strasbourg hospital on Thursday (Oct 6) after an "altercation" during a meeting.PHOTO: REUTERS

STRASBOURG (REUTERS) - Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he would launch a party inquiry into what he called an "altercation" between "two grown men" at a meeting of the party's EU lawmakers in Strasbourg on Thursday (Oct 7) that left one of them in hospital.

Speaking to reporters at the hospital were his would-be successor Steven Woolfe was being kept overnight after collapsing in the parliament, Farage declined to name the other man involved but condemned the incident as bad for Ukip's image.

"It's made us look like we're violent," he said. "It's not good."

Woolfe was expected to make a full recovery, Farage said, adding that he did not expect the matter to be referred to French police.

Woolfe said in a statement that he was feeling better but was staying in hospital overnight for observation. 

"The CT scan has shown that there is no blood clot in the brain," he said in a statement e-mailed by a Ukip spokesman. “At the moment, I am feeling brighter, happier, and smiling as ever. As a precaution, I am being kept in overnight awaiting secondary tests to make sure everything in fine."

Thanking parliamentary and medical staff and fellow Ukip lawmakers who were with him at the Strasbourg hospital, he added: “I am sitting up and said to be looking well. The only consequence at the moment is a bit of numbness on the left-hand side of my face.” 

The spokesman said Woolfe, who was marking his 49th birthday, had passed out and had two “epileptic-like fits” but tests had shown no bleeding on the brain.

Earlier in the day,  Farage said Woolfe was in serious condition in a Strasbourg hospital after an "altercation" during a meeting of Ukip Members of the European Parliament (MEP), 

"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," Mr Farage said in a statement e-mailed by a spokesman.

Fellow Ukip politician Neil Hamilton told the BBC that Woolfe was suffering from bleeding on the brain. “He’s been carted off to hospital with bleeding on the brain, as I understand it,” Mr Hamilton said.

Mr Hamilton, who was not at the meeting but said he had been given an account of what had happened by an eyewitness, said Woolfe had been knocked over and hit his head on a window.

“Steven, I think, picked a fight with one of them and came off worse,” Hamilton told BBC TV. “It’s most unfortunate but passions obviously run high.”

A Ukip spokesman had earlier said Woolfe had been taken “suddenly ill” in the European Parliament building and had been taken to hospital for tests.

But The Telegraph reported that Woolfe “was punched” by a Ukip colleague following a “clear-the-air” meeting on Thursday morning.

Pictures showed Woolfe sprawled face down, still clutching a briefcase on a walkway in the Parliament building containing MEPs’ offices.

The incident comes just a day after Woolfe said he would be putting his name forward to be the party’s new leader even though he admitted he had considered joining Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives.

“In the last few weeks, I have thought long and hard about my political future and how I can best help build the Brexit Britain we voted for in June – a meritocratic, independent and prosperous country that stands up for the millions of people who have been ignored for too long,” he said.

Farage, who leads Ukip in the EU legislature, resumed his overall leadership of the party on Wednesday (Oct 5) after his elected successor stood down after less than three weeks in the job amid factional struggles following the referendum which delivered Ukip's key goal of taking Britain out of the European Union.