Farage quits as UKIP leader to pursue Bercow

LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage announced on Friday he will stand down to focus his efforts on standing for parliament against Speaker John Bercow.

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader, Nigel Farage stands in front of a portrait of the House of Lords before a news conference, in central London June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Farage, who has led the party for three years, said leading the party in Europe as well as the domestic party ahead of a general election next year was too big a task.

“Frankly doing both of those jobs is too much for any one person, the party is far too big, we are about to embark upon a general election campaign in which we are going to have over 500 candidates,” he told the BBC.

“And because of the way UKIP is structured, the domestic leader of the party has got to plan, organise, lead and run that domestic general election campaign and I’m not going to take that burden on because frankly it’s too much,” he said.

“Anyway, I’m going to be busy in Buckingham taking on John Bercow.”

On Thursday, Farage said he had decided to stand against the Speaker to protest at how Westminster handled the scandal over MPs’ expenses.

He said he was challenging Bercow because he “represents the worst” of the Commons.

Convention dictates the big parties stay out of party politics and not field candidates against the Speaker, who is the Commons’ most senior official.

Bercow was elected by MPs in June after the previous Speaker Michael Martin was forced out over his handling of expenses affair, in which some MPs were shown to be claiming taxpayer-funded allowances on items including pornography and moat-cleaning.

UKIP does not have any seats at Westminster but came second behind the Conservatives in June’s election to the European Parliament, leaving Labour in third.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison