Anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters will stand in the UKIP leadership contest despite being blocked from standing in the general election.
Waters, who has called Islam "evil" and a "killing machine," told BI this week that she expected to be blocked from the standing.
Numerous senior party figures are set to walk out of the party if she becomes leader.
LONDON — Anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters will be allowed to stand in the UKIP leadership contest, the party announced on Friday evening.
In a surprise move, the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) approved Waters' application, despite several senior UKIP figures and Waters herself expecting her bid to be blocked from standing in the contest.
Waters told BI earlier this week that she expected the UKIP NEC to block her bid to be the party's new leader over comments she has made about Islam. She was banned from standing as a candidate for UKIP in the June general election after describing Islam as "evil" and a "killing machine." Last year she co-founded the UK branch of anti-Islam group Pegida alongside Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League.
"I do believe they're going to block me for bringing the party into disrepute, probably. Because of Tommy Robinson and Jack Buckby. If that's the case then so be it," Waters, a former Labour Party member, claimed. A number of senior and former senior UKIP figures had also told BI that they expected the Waters' candidacy to be blocked.
Waters went on to say that UKIP would be disrespecting its membership by blocking her bid to replace former leader Paul Nuttall. "They will have shown the membership that they are willing to ignore them [Waters' concerns about Islam]," she said. "And they'll show the public that, frankly, they are not brave enough to discuss Islam in terms that the public wants to hear."
Waters, founder of the Sharia Watch pressure group, is second favourite with bookmakers to be next UKIP leader, behind frontrunner Peter Whittle. Her bid has allegedly been boosted by an influx of over a thousand members of the far-right, a development she told BI proves that the public is interested in her policies on Islam.
"I have been banging my head against the wall trying to tell them about the level of concern but among the public and within the party about this issue," she said.
"They have not been listened to. When I announced I was standing a thousand people joined within two weeks."
She reiterated her belief that immigration from "Muslim societies" is the "biggest threat" to both the British and wider western way of life and closing Europe's borders, via bringing down the EU, is the only way of combating it.
"This mass-migration and what it's bringing is not easily-reversible. These are huge problems. Huge existential issues that need dealing with. And I think that's why a lot of politicians turn away from it — it's just too big. Politicians are happy to kick the can down the road until their careers are over. That's not good enough for me."
UKIP is in search of yet another new leader after Nuttall quit following the party's poor general election performance. The party won no seats and just 1.8% of the national vote, down from the 12.6% of the vote it won in 2015.
A total of 11 people have put their name forward, including Whittle; the party's Scottish leader, David Coburn; and Jonathan Rees-Evans, who famously accused of a gay donkey of raping his horse. The winner will be announced at the party's Autumn conference in Torquay next month.
A UKIP figure who is among the 11 candidates vying to replace Nuttall told BI they will "absolutely" consider their party membership if Waters is elected leader. The Huffington Post reported earlier this summer that 18 UKIP MEPs would consider quitting if Waters wins the contest.
Waters told BI that she will not endorse any other candidate if her bid fails. "It's not because I dislike them all," she said. "I don't like a lot of what David Kurten has said about gays. I've heard him come out with his horrible, judgemental nonsense that gay people were sexually abused as children. I certainly don't want him to win.
"John Rees-Evans I quite like, but I don't think his direct democracy is going to excite the public. It's complicated and difficult to explain. But certainly not people like David Coburn either.
"So, no, there is nobody who I would particularly like to see as leader."
Waters has promised to "democratise" the party if elected leader and hold a membership-wide referendum on scrapping the party's NEC, which she believes is out of touch with grassroots support. She also wants party members to vote on the major policies and have a direct impact on what is included in future manifestos.
"Members tell me all the time that they can't get through to the leadership. They don't feel represented and they don't feel their views are represented. The manifesto is top-down and it should be bottom-up," she said.