UKIP's Lisa Duffy says donor Arron Banks using party as 'puppet'
One of UKIP's leadership candidates has accused the party's main donor of trying to use it as his "puppet".
Lisa Duffy said the dominance of Arron Banks in UKIP's funding was "not healthy" for the party.
Mr Banks, a close ally of former leader Nigel Farage, recently said UKIP needed to be reformed "root and branch" and suggested he could back a new party.
UKIP is in the process of choosing a new leader but the contest has been hit by rows between key party figures.
Ms Duffy is up against MEPs Bill Etheridge and Diane James and activists Phillip Broughton and Elizabeth Jones for the leadership.
Speaking after a hustings in Newport, South Wales, she said: "The danger of only having one donor is that one person then could put the pressure on the party to ask and demand for things to happen, so they basically can use the party as their puppet.
"I think that is really dangerous. I think what is very important for our party is that we get donations from all over, whether small donations or large.
"We shouldn't allow one individual to actually set the tone of our party, our tone is set by our grassroots."
She said she was talking about Mr Banks, adding: "When they don't get their own way, they start calling to scrap the NEC, lets go off and build a new political party, no.
"We've spent 23 years building up UKIP. UKIP is fantastic. UKIP's here for the future. It's not the puppet of one man."
Asked if she thought UKIP had become Mr Banks' puppet, she said: "I think he's trying to use it. It hasn't become it because we haven't allowed it. But that is something that could potentially happen down the road and it's a no no from us."
UKIP's recent infighting has focused on the decision by the ruling National Executive Committee to bar one of the frontrunners - Steven Woolfe - from standing after he submitted his papers late.
Mr Banks, a former Tory donor, has donated more than £1m to UKIP and spent £5.6m of his personal fortune on funding the UKIP-backed Leave.EU campaign.
The Bristol-based insurance magnate recently said there had been an attempted "coup" involving the NEC and UKIP's only MP, Douglas Carswell, and suggested the party might have run its course.
Also after the hustings, Mr Etheridge told the BBC: "No one person, no one man or woman, is any more important than any other member.
"If we're going to be a different party, we cannot allow people to buy us. I don't care if its Mr Banks or anybody else, they don't buy UKIP."
At a separate hustings in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland, Mr Etheridge hit out at "spiteful" comments from UKIP members after photographs of his Viagra erectile dysfunction tablets were reportedly published on social media by his former partner.
He said he had been subjected to "painful, unfair and personal attacks by a woman I once loved" and that some party colleagues had used the issue to "ridicule" him.
Mr Etheridge outlined statistics on men's sexual health and said only a third of those affected sought help.
"It's because of the stigma, ladies and gentlemen, it's a difficult thing to face," he said.
"And these kind of issues can lead to depression - it's a serious issue of mental health and mental health is one of the great unspoken issues that our country faces today.
"To ridicule men seeking help for this type of condition is below contempt and is below this great party."