LONDON – A European Parliament member from Britain’s right-wing U.K. Independence Party said Thursday he is conscious and “feeling brighter” after collapsing following what the party called “an altercation” with colleagues.
Steven Woolfe – the front-runner to be UKIP’s next leader – was taken to a hospital after the clash during a meeting of party lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Party leader Nigel Farage said Woolfe’s condition was serious.
According to media reports, Woolfe was punched, hit his head and collapsed some time later.
In a statement released by the party several hours after the incident, Woolfe said a CT scan had revealed he did not have a blood clot on the brain.
“I am feeling brighter, happier and smiling as ever,” he said. “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.”
The statement said Woolfe would remain in the hospital overnight awaiting the results of more tests.
European Parliament spokeswoman Marjory Van Den Broeke confirmed that emergency services were called Thursday after Woolfe had a medical incident in front of the parliament chamber at 12:40 p.m.
An image published by ITV News showed a man resembling Woolfe apparently unconscious on a walkway inside the Strasbourg building, just outside the parliament chamber.
Founded in 1993 with the goal of removing Britain from the European Union, UKIP has moved from the fringes of British politics to a position of serious influence. Over the past few years the party has won over large numbers of Conservative and Labour voters by appealing to concerns about globalization and large-scale immigration.
UKIP was instrumental in getting Britain to hold a referendum on EU membership, which ended in a June 23 vote for the U.K. to leave the 28-nation bloc.
The result was an enormous political triumph for UKIP, but since then the always-fractious party has been torn by infighting.
Long-time leader Farage stepped down after the June referendum and was replaced by Diane James. She quit Tuesday after just 18 days, citing personal reasons – leaving Farage as interim leader.
Woolfe had announced his intention to run in an upcoming leadership contest and was bookies’ favourite to win.
He was prevented from running to replace Farage in the leadership contest won by James because party officials said he missed the application deadline by 17 minutes.
Woolfe, who turned 49 on Thursday, said recently that he had considered joining the Conservative Party because he was “enthused” by new Prime Minister Theresa May’s commitment to social reform. He said he decided to remain with UKIP because working-class people “need to have a voice against the elites.”
UKIP has just one seat out of 650 in Britain’s House of Commons, but – despite its vociferous opposition to the EU and all it stands for – it holds more than 20 seats in the bloc’s parliament of 751 seats.
Although Britain has voted to leave the EU it will remain a member until a formal divorce is negotiated – a process that could last two years or more.
Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.