‘It shouldn’t have happened’ says Nigel Farage

Fresh turmoil has erupted after the man tipped to be the new UKIP leader was rushed to hospital following a bust-up with a fellow party member.

Bitter divisions within UKIP have been laid bare in the incident which saw the MEP Steven Woolfe taken to hospital for treatment after he was reportedly punched in the face.

Speaking after the altercation, Mr Farage, who is UKIPs temporary leader, said simply: “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Mr Woolfe, the MEP for the North West, was said to have been hit in the face before losing his footing and hitting his head on a metal bar during a fight at a meeting in Strasbourg, the formal seat of the European Parliament.

Mr Farage said: “It was two grown men getting involved in an altercation. It’s not very seemly behaviour but I’m not going to get involved in the blame game and name names and say who did what but it shouldn’t have happened.

“We are talking about a dispute that finished up physically. It isn’t very grown-up what’s happened and it’s not good.”

He refused to say who the second man involved was, although UKIP has also failed to deny that it was Mike Hookem, MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. Mr Hookem’s spokesperson, however, has said: “Mike did not touch him”.

He has now announced an inquiry into what happened before the party decides what action to take.

It is understood that an argument broke out when one party member described Mr Woolfe as ‘a joke’. Both men are reported to have then taken off their jackets before leaving the room. Witnesses say Mr Woolfe fell onto a metal bar in the parliament building after he was punched.

Mr Woolfe collapsed two hours after the incident and is confirmed to have suffered two seizures, one of which was serious. He is now believed to be recovering well although has had to remain in hospital overnight so medics can monitor his condition. Because no complaints have been made to the police it is unlikely it will become part of a legal investigation.

UKIP has released a statement from Mr Woolfe in which he said he was now able to sit up having undergone a brain scan as a precaution.

The fight happened after short-lived leader Diane James unexpectedly quit the reins of UKIP after just 18 days in post.