Ukip has been plunged into a fresh crisis after leadership favourite Steven Woolfe was taken to hospital following an “altercation” with another of the party’s MEPs.
The 49-year-old collapsed and underwent a brain scan following reports of a confrontation with Yorkshire and Humber MEP Mike Hookem at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
However, a spokesman for 62-year-old Mr Hookem denied a physical fight took place, telling the MailOnline: “Mike did not touch him”.
Party leader Nigel Farage has ordered an inquiry into the incident, which comes days after the shock resignation of newly-elected leader Diane James.
Mr Woolfe, 49, said in a statement that he was being detained in hospital overnight as a precautionary measure, adding: “At the moment I am feeling brighter, happier, and smiling as ever.”
Mr Farage confirmed said the North West England MEP had suffered two seizures – including “one quite major one”.
“He did lose consciousness for a bit so things were pretty bad,” he told reporters.
Mr Farage refused to be drawn on who else was involved in the incident, which he likened to something “you see in third world parliaments”.
“It’s two grown men getting involved in an altercation,” he said.
“It’s not very seemly behaviour, but I’m not today going to get involved in the blame game, name names and say who did what.”
MEP Roger Helmer, who was at the meeting, confirmed there was “a lively exchange of views” but said he did not see any physical confrontation.
He said the incident took place “a good two hours” before Mr Woolfe collapsed.
The confrontation threatens to further damage the reputation of the party which is locked in a leadership crisis after Ms James quit just 18 days after being elected to the post.
In a sign of the bitter divisions, the party’s millionaire backer Arron Banks demanded the suspension of the party’s ruling national executive committee, plus the expulsion of two top figures – Neil Hamilton and Douglas Carswell, both ex-Tories.
Mr Woolfe was the first contender to throw his hat in the ring for the new leadership bid, having been barred from standing in the last leadership election after it was ruled he submitted his nomination papers 17 minutes late.
There were claims that he had angered some of the party’s 21 other MEPs by admitting that he had considered defecting to the Conservatives.