Paul Nuttall could become only the second serving leader of a major party not to stand in a general election for more than a century after he hinted he might sit out the snap poll.
The UK Independence Party leader repeatedly refused to say he would stand to be an MP in the June 8 election, prompting claims he was "chickening" out.
Mr Nuttall is weighing up whether standing as a Parliamentary candidate will leave him spread too thinly. He will also be keen to avoid a repeat of his humiliating defeat in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election in February.
Mr Nuttall left a press conference announcing the party’s social integration policies at a central London hotel on Monday and took refuge in a side room as reporters asked him if he would stand in the election.
Emerging after 10 minutes, and under repeated questioning, Mr Nuttall suggested he might not stand after all.
He said that “Ukip leaders have done pretty well before not being MPs”, in a reference to the party's former leader Nigel Farage who failed seven times to be elected as an MP.
Sources close to Mr Nuttall, an MEP since 2009, said he was weighing up whether to stand and had received “73 pieces of advice” about what to do.
The source said: “It is a question of where and how much time you can spend in the constituency. It might leave him spread too thinly.”
In 2015 the party's then leader Nigel Farage found it difficult to divide his time between campaigning nationally and fighting the South Thanet constituency, which he failed to win.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the party's leader from 2009 to 2010, did not stand in the 2010 general election.
But before that the last major party leader not to stand for election was Lord Salisbury, Conservative leader 1895 to 1902. Prof John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University said: “They [Ukip] are not in a happy place.”
Mr Nuttall had helped to unveil the party's social integration plans including a public burka ban, banning sharia law, and a moratorium on the creation of new Islamic faith schools.
Ukip also called for “school-based medical checks on girls from groups at high risk of suffering female genital mutiliation”, which would be carried out “annually and whether they return from trips overseas”.
Ukip was "10 years ahead of our time" on these issues, Mr Nuttall said, and insisted the policies were "not designed to sow the seeds of division. It is about promoting integration in British society".
But Ukip was widely criticised because the 35-minute “integration agenda” launch focused almost exclusively on policies which would affect Muslims.
The party admitted that beekeepers - who wear face coverings when attending their hives - would not be affected by the ban.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said: “Ukip’s 'integration agenda' is an assault on multiculturalism and an attack on Muslims. It's full-throttled Islamophobia.”
Former Home Office minister Baroness Featherstone added: “Research shows that school teachers are still too scared to talk about FGM, honour-based violence and forced marriage, let alone report it.
“This is where we should concentrate our efforts, not forcing girls to undergo invasive medical examinations."
Separately, Arron Banks, the former Ukip donor, said he would not fight Clacton for Ukip and would instead support a local councillor financially.
Speaking after meeting councillors in Clacton, he said: “The local branch of UKIP was full of genuinely decent people.
"I have a consequently made the decision to withdraw my candidacy for the seat of Clacton. I will not be standing either as a UKIP candidate or as an independent.”