MEP: I can bring a bit of common sense to UKIP; Etheridge claims he can create unity after punches thrown.
Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor email@example.com
UKIP leadership candidate Bill Etheridge has claimed he can bring the party's internal fighting to an end and help "get our act together".
Mr Etheridge, a West Midlands MEP and Dudley councillor, said he had planned to back Stephen Woolfe, the North West MEP who was hospitalised after being involved in a scuffle with a colleague.
But he said the incident showed Mr Woolfe was not the right person to lead the crisis-hit party.
Mr Etheridge said: "We need to pull our socks up and that's why I'm standing. Hopefully, I can bring a bit of common sense to things and pull the ship together a bit."
"When someone's temperament suggests that if they are questioned they lose their rag to such a degree that they are offering people outside to fight, that is not the kind of person I think who should be in charge of a serious political party. Stephen's a great guy and he's very talented but in some ways he's a little bit like a political Georgie Best.
"He's very talented but he's got some flaws to him. I think right now we need more of a Jack Charlton approach."
UKIP is holding a second leadership contest after Diane James resigned from the post after just 18 days. She was elected in September to replace Nigel Farage, who led UKIP from 2006 to 2009, and again from 2010 to 2016.
Mr Woolfe had been seen as a front-runner, before he was involved in an incident with colleague Mike Hookem outside a meeting in Strasbourg.
He has now been discharged from hospital, after he was admitted with a head injury.
Mr Etheridge said the party was letting down its supporters.
He added: "It's been a rough old time. Basically when you've had a leader like Nigel Farage who dominates the scene for so long, there's a vacuum when he steps aside. The events of this week, while serious, unfortunately have been a little overplayed. But all the same it's not a good look."
Mr Etheridge stood in UKIP's previous leadership election earlier this year, coming third, in which he set out a series of policy proposals such as a referendum on bringing back capital punishment.
But he said that this time around, his message would be that he could restore party unity.
"I'm going to pull them together. It's about time that we stopped all the squabbling, stopped all the fighting. And with me at the forefront, one thing I can do is face up to trouble and I keep on ploughing ahead. "I think that's what we've got to do now. We've got to start getting ourselves together and stop being distracted by little squabbles. "The people who support us and vote for us, they deserve better and it's time for us to get our act together. I think I'm the bloke who can help do that."
I'm going to pull them together. It's about time that we stopped all the squabblingBill Etheridge MEP, above