'A very regrettable matter': UKIP members face probe after bust-up

Steven Woolfe - the front-runner to be UKIP's next leader - suffered seizures and lost consciousness after the clash Thursday morning during a meeting of party lawmakers at the legislative building in Strasbourg, France.

"We're talking about a dispute which ended up physically", Mr Farage said, adding there were briefly concerns whether Mr Woolfe "was going to make it". "He then stood up in front of everybody and said "if it's that, let's take it outside of the room", I think his words were "mano a mano".

He was ruled out of the previous leadership contest after missing the nominations deadline but the eventual victor Diane James then unexpectedly quit the job after just 18 days, triggering a fresh election.

His intervention came as Steven Woolfe claimed a Ukip colleague "came at me and landed a blow" in a furious row over the party's leadership contest.

Woolfe is said to have had a confrontation with his Ukip colleague following a heated meeting over the future of the party.

Woolfe, 49, collapsed after the incident with the former Royal Engineers commando at the European Parliament.

He accused Mr Hamilton of touring the TV studios "spewing his bile" even before it was clear that Mr Woolfe would recover, branding him "a creature from the gutter who will do anything to get his mug on our screens".

"I am feeling brighter, happier and smiling as ever", he said.

Accounts of what followed vary, with Mr Woolfe quoted in the Daily Mail as saying a punch was thrown at him. "The only effect at the moment is a bit of numbness on the left hand side of my face", Woolfe's statement said.

Ms Kirton-Darling and her Labour colleague MEP Paul Brannen said in a statement they were shocked and saddened that "this incident could take place in the European Parliament".

The statement said Woolfe would remain in the hospital overnight awaiting the result of more tests.

Lisa Duffy, who was runner-up in last month's leadership election, said party members were "embarrassed" by what had taken place.

In a statement, Nigel Farage - now the party's interim leader - confirmed he had asked Mr Oakden and the party secretary to conduct an investigation "from which the truth will be discovered".

They will hear from Woolfe, Hookem and "whoever they deem appropriate", like other MEPs or staff who were at the Ukip meeting or outside the room, a parliament official told EUobserver.

It is alleged that the MEP challenged Woolfe for considering defecting to the Tories before announcing his candidacy to become Ukip leader. "We wish Stephen Woolfe a full recovery and hope that he is out of hospital soon".

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