Ukip is not in crisis, its leader Paul Nuttall declared yesterday as he hit back at criticism from the party’s best-known figures in a defiant speech.
Mr Nuttall warned against “panic” and “navel-gazing” as he spoke for the first time since his by-election defeat triggered a new party civil war.
He rejected warnings from his predecessor Nigel Farage over the party’s direction, saying that Ukip would never stop being “radical”.
Mr Nuttall also waived away threats from leading donor Arron Banks to pull his funding, revealing he had assurances that the party’s finances were secure for the future.
However there was also an indication that Ukip would have to change after claims of an identity crisis following the Brexit vote and a dip in support.
Mr Nuttall said a “rebrand” was on its way and predicted an upturn in support when Brexit talks begin, saying Ukip would be “guard dogs” of last June’s referendum vote.
“I’ve read this week in many news outlets that Ukip is in crisis. Well, I’m an old hand … I’ve read Ukip’s obituary over 100 occasions,” Mr Nuttall said at a regional party conference in Weymouth.
“We’re a bit like a boomerang. You can throw us away and we always come back.”
He added later: "This is not a party in crisis, this is a party that is on the move and looking to the future."
Mr Nuttall admitted feeling “bruised” after losing the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election to Labour, where he stood himself as a candidate.
But he said the "real reason" the party did not win was because the Tory vote had not come to Ukip, and that with hindsight that should not have been surprising.
"Now is not the time for panic or knee-jerk reactions and now is certainly not the time for navel-gazing or in-fighting," he said.
"All we have to do is hold our nerve, and the future is bright, the future is purple."
Mr Nuttall did not name Mr Farage or Mr Banks by name, but he did rebut their criticisms voiced in recent days.
In a piece for Telegraph.co.uk, Mr Nuttall also rejects criticism of his leadership. "My policies and perspective has always been radical," he writes.
"I made my views known in my leadership bid and the huge mandate the membership gave me as a result ensures that I call the shots."
In his Saturday speech Mr Nuttall made no mention of Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP who is facing calls to be sacked over claims he blocked Mr Farage’s knighthood.
However in an interview to be aired today, he defends Mr Nuttall over his role in the row and says the party’s board should decide his fate.
"We now have it in writing, from Douglas, that he did speak to the right people and he did lobby for Nigel to get a knighthood,” Mr Nuttall says on Sky News.
It cacomes after Mr Banks dubbed Mr Nuttall “weak” and pledged to launch his own movement aimed at motivating a million people.