Steven Woolfe, the overwhelming favourite to succeed Diane James as leader of the UK Independence Party, says he is “well” after being punched in the head by a colleague during a meeting with other UKIP members of the European Parliament earlier on Thursday.
In a statement released shortly before 3 p.m. BST (10 a.m. ET), Woolfe, who is still in a hospital in Strasbourg, France, said:
“The CT scan has shown that there is no blood clot in the brain. At the moment I am feeling brighter, happier, and smiling as ever.
“I would like everyone to know that the parliamentary staff, the UKIP MEPS with me and hospital staff have been brilliant. Their care has been exceptional.
“I am sitting up, and said to be looking well. The only consequence at the moment is a bit of numbness on the left hand side of my face.”
Sky News initially reported that the MEP’s condition had escalated to “life-threatening.” Shortly after 2 p.m. BST, however, Sky reported that Woolfe was “conscious and recovering.”
About 30 minutes after that, the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, a friend of Woolfe who reportedly was at the meeting where Woolfe was punched, told The Telegraph that Woolfe’s condition was “mildly better” and that he planned to visit him later in the afternoon.
Woolfe, the Manchester-born UKIP migration spokesman, was meeting with 22 other MEPs from UKIP on Thursday morning in Strasbourg, one of three cities in which the European Parliament is based.
Many of the finer details of what happened there are yet to be officially confirmed, but a senior source within UKIP told Sky’s Robert Nisbet that Woolfe was punched once in the head by a colleague and hit his head on a metal bar in an altercation he walked away from, only to collapse half an hour later.
He was eventually taken to a hospital in Strasbourg.
Nisbet added that Woolfe was still conscious after he collapsed but said he had “lost the feeling down one side of his body.” The BBC’s Alex Forsyth reported that Woolfe had two “epileptic-like fits” and suffered from bleeding of the brain.
Below are images from a video released by ITV of Woolfe after his collapse. It was unclear when the footage was recorded or who the other man in the first picture is.
Who hit Woolfe?
The Guardian named Mike Hookem, the party’s defence spokesman, as the person who punched Woolfe. A source close to the party said a fight broke out after Hookem “made a few choice words” to Woolfe about speculation that he was considering defecting to Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Tory party. A source told Business Insider that Woolfe had been impressed by the direction of the Conservatives and was considering joining.
Euroactiv’s James Crisp reported that Woolfe and another UKIP MEP “took off their jackets” and went “outside” to fight after Woolfe was called a “joke.” A witness told The Telegraph’s Kate McCann that Woolfe “fell into the window” after being punched.
A representative for the Strasbourg police told The Guardian that the police had not been called to the Parliament and that no investigation had been launched so far.
Support floods in for Woolfe
Lisa Duffy, a candidate in the party’s recent leadership election, described the situation as “awful” in an interview with Sky. “Our thoughts are currently with Steven and his young family. Nobody can believe it. I’ve only really read what’s on the Sky and BBC websites but it sounds like an awful situation.”
She added: “Steven is a really lovely young man with a fantastic family. He joined our party in 2010 full of energy and enthusiasm. He has been a fantastic spokesperson for our immigration policy. He’s got a lot of support in our party.”
Numerous other UKIP officials have tweeted messages of support, including James, British MP Douglas Carswell, and Suzanne Evans, the former party deputy chair.
Shocked to hear Steven Woolfe has apparently collapsed in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Wishing him well for a speedy recovery.
— Suzanne Evans (@SuzanneEvans1) October 6, 2016
Shocked and appalled to hear about what happened to Steve Woolfe. Thinking of him
— Douglas Carswell MP (@DouglasCarswell) October 6, 2016
Woolfe is hugely popular among party members and was widely regarded as the favourite to succeed Farage in the recent leadership election. But the MEP failed to submit his application in time and was subsequently blocked from entering. James was elected with nearly half of the vote before standing down 18 days later.
Raheem Kassam, the UK editor-in-chief of the alt-right publication Breitbart, has cancelled his appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics show because of Woolfe’s injury. In a statement, Kassam, who announced his own candidacy on Wednesday, said, “The details out of the EU parliament today are distressing.”
“Our thoughts and prayers should be for Steven and his speedy recovery,” he said. “Violence like this is abhorrent, and does not reflect UKIP or its members.”
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