ANDOVER politician Tony Hooke has resigned from UKIP to avoid discrediting the party following an alleged scuffle with a protester during the election campaign.

The Hampshire county councillor said he has quit the party to avoid potential bad publicity in the run-up to the General Election should he be charged.

He was arrested after an incident between members of the party and protesters at a meeting at Portsmouth’s Guildhall on April 28, which had been attended by party leader Nigel Farage and launched UKIP’s breakthrough election campaign.

Cllr Hooke, who says he is innocent of any crime, said: “I never wanted to resign from the party. I love the party to bits and all the people who work for it. It has been a very difficult decision but there is going to be a lot of flak flying my way.

“They are determined to have me nailed. The last thing I want is this happening in the run-up to the General Election.”

Cllr Hooke will now continue as an independent councillor for Andover.

Following UKIP county group chief Ray Finch’s election as a Euro MP, county councillor Philip Fawkes, representing Waterside, has taken over the role. Cllr Fawkes said it was unfortunate Cllr Hooke had quit.

“It is not something I would have chosen to happen in my first week as leader, but I respect his views and wishes to become an independent.

“He has not been asked to resign nor has he been disciplined. It is all very amicable and there is no animosity.

“Clearly we don’t want anyone to bring the party into disrepute but this is not the case with Cllr Hooke.

“He may well have been arrested but he has not been charged.”

County council leader Cllr Roy Perry said the assault allegation was a police matter, but he added he had instructed the county council solicitor to investigate whether Cllr Hooke was in breach of the councillors’ code of conduct over whitewash allegations made about the chief constable.

He said: “It is an outrageous suggestion. The allegations about the county’s chief constable being involved in a conspiracy was a terrible thing.

“Cllr Hooke’s behaviour has not been a credit to himself, his party or the county council.”

County council opposition Lib Dem leader Keith House said: “UKIP were always going to fall apart at Hampshire but nobody thought it would happen so quickly. Only the Liberal Democrats offer a strong opposition to the Conserv-atives in Hampshire.”