Nigel Farage a Stalinist dictator, says UKIP MEP
A senior member of the UK Independence Party has threatened to quit after accusing leader Nigel Farage of being a "Stalinist dictator" and "anti-women".
Marta Andreasen, who represents the South East England in the European Parliament, said she was unlikely to stand as a UKIP candidate next year.
She told the BBC that Mr Farage did not want "intelligent, professional" women in key positions in the party.
He responded by describing the criticism as "laughable nonsense".
Relations between the two have been strained for some time, with Ms Andreasen calling for Mr Farage to quit after the party's poor performance in council elections in 2011.
Since then, UKIP's fortunes have improved and it recorded its best performance in a parliamentary by-election in Rotherham in December.
Ms Andreasen, who worked for the European Commission before joining UKIP and being elected in 2009, told the BBC that "if things don't change" within the party "she can't imagine a way to continue".
Of Mr Farage, she told LondonlovesBusiness.com: "Under his leadership - and I have questioned his leadership obviously a number of times - the party has become a dictatorship. This is a Stalinist way of operating and he doesn't care about the membership or the grassroots."
And she told the BBC she had been openly criticised by her party leader and other MEPs, suggesting that this amounted to bullying.
"I've been bullied, in private situations, for decisions I have made by Nigel. I have been accused of being disloyal, breaching confidence and breaching my contract with the party. There's an attitude that either you keep silent about everything that's been going on in the party or suffer the consequences."
Ms Andreasen said she believed Mr Farage - who was re-elected as leader in 2010 after standing down a year earlier to contest a Westminster seat - "did not like women".
"I am the only female MEP," she added. "He doesn't try to involve intelligent professional women in positions of responsibility in the party. He thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom."
She said she planned to stay in the European Parliament as a UKIP representative until the end of the current Parliament in 2014, to see out her "mandate" and "look for ways I can continue to represent the membership". She said she might consider standing as an independent next year.
'No bar to advancement'
Asked about Ms Andreasen's comments, Mr Farage told the BBC: "This is just laughable nonsense." When asked if he disliked women, he joked: "They've caused me a lot of trouble over the years."
Mr Farage has defended UKIP as being different from other parties after Prime Minister David Cameron said some of its members were "pretty odd people". He said UKIP did have "some eccentrics" but this was healthy and he was an unusual party leader in that he was a conviction politician.
Ms Andreasen is the party's sole remaining female MEP, after Nikki Sinclaire was expelled from UKIP in 2010.
Ms Sinclaire later brought a sexual discrimination case against the party which was subsequently dropped.
At the time, the party issued a statement affirming its "opposition to discrimination on all grounds as prescribed by law and otherwise" and stressed that sexuality was "no bar to involvement or advancement" within the party.