Bill Etheridge suspends fourth UKIP leadership campaign to back anti-Islam candidate
Bill Etheridge has ditched his UKIP leadership bid in order to support an anti-Islam candidate.
The West Midlands MEP has given his backing to interim leader Gerard Batten, who took over following the party's decision to oust Henry Bolton earlier this year.
Mr Etheridge had announced he was planning a fourth bid to lead the party last month.
However, he now says he wants to see another 12 months of 'calm, measured leadership' from 'well respected, experienced elder statesman' Mr Batten.
Mr Batten rose to notoriety when he described Islam as a 'death cult', a claim that he recently defended as being 'factually and historically true'.
He supports the idea of asking British Muslims to sign a text formally renouncing elements of the Quran.
WATCH: Bill Etheridge - 'No time for a freak show'
Mr Etheridge said: "There are in my opinion only four people capable of contesting this election, of which I am one.
"Yes, the normal selection of chancers, fantasists and fellow travellers have already started speculating and discussing their chances, but now is not the time for another ridiculous freak show, leading to a potentially disastrous result, like last time."
He added that he had received assurances from Mr Batten about his intentions and that another 12 months of his leadership would 'steady the ship' and allow UKIP to focus on pushing for 'true independence for the UK'.
"It is my intention to suspend my leadership campaign or this period of time and support Gerard in his continuing sterling efforts to secure the party's finances and boost our membership," Mr Etheridge said.
He added that while he did not agree with some of Mr Batten's views, he would remain 'fiercely loyal' to 'a man I have a great deal of personal respect for'.
"I urge all other potential leadership candidates to follow my example and allow this fine man another 12 months to put right the damage our party has suffered and together, make UKIP a great party."