In a contest already offering plenty of thrills and spills, the race to become the next Ukip leader has kicked up some fresh drama this morning. Raheem Kassam, Nigel Farage’s preferred successor, has announced his decision to end his leadership bid. The former press officer has blamed press intrusion. In a statement, he said:
‘After much consideration, I have decided not to pursue my campaign to be UKIP leader any further. This was a very difficult decision, and I want to thank everyone who supported me in the process. It is a decision I have not taken lightly, but following meetings this weekend I realised the path to victory is too narrow. I would encourage my supporters to back Peter Whittle, who I think would make a fantastic leader of the party.’
Kassam went on to say that the scrutiny he had faced from the media since announcing his leadership bid had gone too far:
‘I am tough and I can take it, but when Times journalists show up at my elderly parents’ house at dusk, intimidating them, I draw the line.’
But it wasn’t only journalists who Kassam said were to blame for his decision to withdraw from the contest. He also said that his inability to raise enough funds would have meant it was impossible for his campaign to be anything other than a ‘digital’ one ‘run from SW1’ – something he wasn’t prepared to put his name to. While in the manner of Trump – who Kassam had emulated during his brief leadership bid – he also said he wasn’t happy with ‘the integrity of the process’.