Nigel Farage bids to topple UKIP leader Gerard Batten over Tommy Robinson role

Nigel Farage will launch an effort to oust UKIP leader Gerard Batten following his appointment of far-right figure Tommy Robinson.

Mr Farage, who previously led UKIP in three different spells, condemned Mr Batten for dragging the party in a "shameful direction".

Since becoming leader in February, Mr Batten has seen a series of high-profile figures quit UKIP amid criticism of the party's anti-Islam messages.

He has now prompted a new row by controversially naming English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, as his adviser on rape gangs and prison reform.

Mr Farage described himself as "appalled" by the appointment and revealed he will be lobbying UKIP officials in a bid to remove Mr Batten.

"I will be writing to the National Executive Committee of the party today and urging that we have a vote of no confidence in Gerard Batten as leader, that we get rid of him," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We can have one last go at getting rid of somebody who, as leader, is dragging us in a shameful direction."

Mr Farage has previously criticised Mr Batten for marching alongside the Democratic Football Lads Alliance at an anti-Muslim rally.

He accused Mr Batten of having a "fixation with Tommy Robinson and discussing Islam, and dragging UKIP into a direction of effectively being a, sort of, street activist party".

Mr Farage added: "It goes against all the things I did as leader to say we will talk about immigration, we will talk about the extreme forms of Islam.

"But, we will do it as a non-racist, non-sectarian party. This blows a hole in all of that."

In May, Robinson was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court after he filmed people involved in a grooming case.

The sentence was later quashed and the case has been referred to the attorney general.

In a statement, Mr Batten announced: "I have appointed Tommy Robinson to be a personal special adviser on two subjects which he has great knowledge.

"It is not necessary for him to be a party member in order to assist me in this role. I am looking forward to working with him."

UKIP chairman Kirstan Herriot recently revealed the party's NEC had been asked by Mr Batten to consider allowing members to vote on whether Robinson should be allowed to join the party or not.

However, the party's ruling body voted to defer any action until after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, 2019 in order to keep UKIP's focus on Brexit.

Robinson has had a series of run-ins with the law.

Years before he founded the EDL in 2009, Robinson was convicted of assaulting an off-duty police officer.

Robinson was also imprisoned in 2013 for using someone else's passport to travel to the US and a year later was jailed for mortgage fraud.

He said that "going to prison was the best thing that ever happened to me" after the passport conviction.

UKIP peer Lord Pearson has recently been criticised for inviting Robinson to meetings in parliament.