UKIP is at war with itself after its ruling executive excluded the frontrunner to replace Nigel Farage from the party's leadership contest because he sent in his application form 17 minutes late.
Steven Woolfe, an MEP with a slick media operation who had been seen as the leading candidate to take control of the party post-EU referendum, discovered at noon on Wednesday that he had been blocked from standing by the party's national executive committee (NEC).
As a result just six candidates made the ballot, leaving MEP Diane James as the favourite to take over.
The decision opens a schism in UKIP between two groups. One one side are supporters of Woolfe, outgoing leader Farage, and major UKIP donor Arron Banks. On the other is a faction that includes the party's only MP, Douglas Carswell, and Neil Hamilton who have substantial support on the party's NEC.
Farage and Banks have both attacked the NEC's decision, with Farage backers suggesting an emergency meeting to overturn the party's structure and Banks threatening to start an entirely new political movement.
Three members of UKIP's NEC quit in protest immediately after the decision to exclude Woolfe was announced, attacking the organisation's "oligarchy, self-promotion and cronyism" and blaming an "escalating megalomania that is detrimental to the functioning of the party".
Despite days of news stories about Woolfe's allegedly lapsed UKIP membership and the time he forgot a drink-driving conviction, the committee said they excluded him from the ballot because he was late in submitting his formal application to stand.
Woolfe previously said he had technical problems and has said he couldn't make the UKIP website work: "I did feel like I was in a scene from Little Britain’s ‘computer says no’."
The party confirmed that this was the reason Woolfe had been excluded: "By a clear majority of NEC members Steven Woolfe MEP’s application was considered to be ineligible as a result of a late submission. As such he did not meet the eligibility criteria. His membership of the Party was not in question."
In a statement Woolfe appeared to suggest he accepted his exclusion from the contest and wished the other candidates well: "Although I am out of the contest I wish the other candidates well and hope they can show UKIP has a positive, inclusive, patriotic vision for Britain."
However, he was still unhappy with the technical problem which kept him off the ballot: "They have failed to accept that there were serious issues with the application system despite providing evidence that attempts of submission were made before the deadline. The NEC deny this is the fault of the UKIP system.
"Furthermore, highly confidential information about me held in party documents has been leaked to the press and the NEC has not sought to investigate this gross breach of privacy."
The six eligible candidates who did make the ballot are Bill Etheridge, Diane James, Elizabeth Jones, Jonathan Arnott, Lisa Duffy, Phillip Broughton.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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