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UKIP officials quit over Hillsborough comments

Two senior UKIP officials have quit the party because of its “crass insensitivity” over the Hillsborough disaster.

Stuart Monkcom, chairman of leader Paul Nuttall’s own branch in Liverpool, and Adam Heatherington, chairman of the Merseyside regional branch, said comments from party figures had been “upsetting and intolerable” for victims’ families.

The announcement comes just days before the Stoke Central by-election, in which Mr Nuttall is hoping to unseat Labour.

The UKIP leader has had to apologise for a statement on his website which falsely claimed he lost “close friends” in the 1989 disaster, which left 96 people dead.

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall waves after his speech at the party's conference
Video: Nuttall appears to cry after standing ovation

The party’s millionaire donor Arron Banks then said he was “sick to death” of hearing about Hillsborough and accused Mr Nuttall’s critics of “milking” the tragedy for political purposes.

In a statement, Mr Monkcom said: “Although the timing of our resignations is unfortunate in light of upcoming elections, both Adam and I wish to make it clear where the painful subject of Hillsborough is concerned, with closure not yet in sight, this unprofessional approach and crass insensitivity from high-profile people closely within and without UKIP is upsetting and intolerable.

“We identify most strongly with all the good people of Liverpool and most importantly the families of the Hillsborough victims, who have fought so long and hard for justice in their condemnation of the way UKIP has handled these issues and have resigned our positions and membership of UKIP forthwith.”

Paul Nuttall denies claims that 'close personal friends' died during Hillsborough disaster
Video: UKIP leader denies own website claims on Hillsborough

Mr Nuttall claimed on Friday that he was the victim of a “co-ordinated, cruel and almost evil smear campaign” over Hillsborough.

He has insisted a press officer was responsible for the inaccurate claim on his website.

A report in The Guardian which cast doubt on Mr Nuttall’s claim to have been at the stadium as a 12-year-old fan on the day of the tragedy has also been strongly refuted by the UKIP leader.

:: The candidates in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election on 23 February are:

:: Mohammed Yaqub Akram – Independent
:: Zulfiqar Ali – Liberal Democrats
:: Jack Brereton – Conservatives
:: The Incredible Flying Brick – Official Monster Raving Loony Party
:: Adam Colclough – Green Party
:: Godfrey Davies – Christian Peoples Alliance
:: Barbara Fielding – Independent
:: David Furness – British National Party
:: Paul Nuttall – UKIP
:: Gareth Snell – Labour

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