Investigation into altercation between Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem
Date of incident – 6th October 2016
On the afternoon of Thursday 6th October 2016, UKIP Leader Nigel Farage asked that the UKIP Chairman and the party’s General Secretary conduct an investigation into an alleged altercation between two UKIP Members of the European Parliament, Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem.
The investigation involved speaking with, or receiving statements from UKIP representatives who were in the vicinity of the incident at the time.
The altercation took place in a small anteroom (see image 1), which led to a large meeting room (see image 2). Both rooms are inside the Parliament building.
Below reflects what the investigation was told by those members present.
Wednesday 5th October
On the evening of Wednesday 5th October, reports surfaced alleging that Steven Woolfe MEP had been having substantive conversations with the Conservative Party, relating to his possible defection. These reports had included an admission from Mr Woolfe that such conversations had taken place.
On hearing these reports, a member of the UKIP MEP delegation called for an emergency meeting of the delegation so that members could have an opportunity to question Mr Woolfe further on the details surrounding these conversations.
It is clear that a majority of members from the delegation shared very serious concerns over the allegations regarding the possible defection of Mr Woolfe and many felt that the meeting was an opportunity to clear the air and get clarification of the facts. These concerns were amplified by Mr Woolfe announcing that he intended to run for the UKIP Leadership.
The meeting was called for 10.00am on the morning of Thursday 6th October. It was to take place in a private meeting room within the Parliament building.
Thursday 6th October
The meeting began at 10.00am as scheduled, with a member questioning Steven Woolfe on the allegations.
A short time into an answer from Mr Woolfe, UKIP MEP Mike Hookem interjected to outline his disappointment over the behaviour of Mr Woolfe, not only in relation to the Conservative allegations but also over his failure to admit responsibility for his late submission of paperwork during the previous leadership election.
The clear majority of members in attendance confirmed that Mr Hookem made this interjection without raising his voice and in keeping with his usual style – assertive but not aggressive.
A very small number of members in attendance suggested that the interjection by Mr Hookem was given in an aggressive and overly forceful manner, different to the way in which Mr Hookem would normally conduct himself at a meeting.
After a brief exchange of words, Mr Woolfe suggested to Mr Hookem that they two went outside to deal with their differences “man to man”.
A clear majority of members in attendance inferred from the manner in which Mr Woolfe said “man to man”, that he was offering for Mr Hookem to go outside for a physical altercation.
A small number of members in attendance believed that his intentions with regard to the “man to man” comment were merely suggesting a conversation in a more private environment.
A clear majority of members in attendance believed that Mr Woolfe removed his suit jacket on or around the time he made the “man to man” comment.
A small number of members in attendance believed that Mr Woolfe removed his outside coat/jacket on or around the time he made the “man to man” comment.
Mr Woolfe exited the main meeting room, entering the anteroom through Door A (see image 1)
Mr Hookem exited the main meeting room, entering the anteroom through Door B (see image 1)
Note that both doors A and B are swing doors which opened into the anteroom.
An unspecified number of members called out in an attempt to stop Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem from exiting the room, offering further proof that some members in attendance feared a physical altercation may be imminent.
The doors behind Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem swung shut to the fully closed position after both men had walked through their respective doors.
A clear majority of members in attendance believed that Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem were alone in the anteroom for between 10 and 30 seconds.
One member in attendance believed that Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem were alone in the anteroom for less than 10 seconds.
One member in attendance believed that Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem were alone in the anteroom for upwards of 60 seconds.
There were no eye witnesses to what took place in the anteroom between Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem, aside from the two men themselves.
Both Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem offered differing accounts to the investigation of what took place.
Mr Woolfe alleged that he had “received a blow” from Mr Hookem.
Mr Hookem denied that either man had attempted to strike the other.
Due to the lack of eye-witnesses, it is not possible to verify either account.
During the time that Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem were in the anteroom, two MEP’s rose from their chairs and made towards the anteroom doors. (latterly referred to as MEP A & MEP B)
MEP A moved towards door A with the intention of opening it. As the MEP moved for the handle, they confirmed that the door was opened quickly from inside the room and that Mr Woolfe came tumbling out backwards.
MEP A continued into the anteroom to see Mr Hookem stood directly to his left, at a 90 degree angle from their line of walking through the door. MEP A confirmed that Mr Hookem looked “bemused”, with his arms by his side and was standing some feet from the door.
MEP B moved through door B, but entered the anteroom immediately after Mr Woolfe had exited backwards into the main meeting room.
Whilst it is possible that Mr Woolfe could have been pushed through the door by Mr Hookem, there is no evidence to confirm this.
Given that MEP A was walking directly towards door A at the time that the door opened and Mr Woolfe fell backwards through it, it is reasonable to assume that MEP A would have seen Mr Hookem directly in his line of sight beyond the falling Mr Woolfe, which he did not. MEP A did not see Mr Hookem until he fully entered the anteroom and looked 90 degrees to his left.
A small number of members in attendance confirmed that they saw Mr Woolfe strike the back of his head on a ledge immediately beneath large glass panels which lined the wall of the meeting room. They confirmed that the force of this impact was sufficient to “make them wince”.
Giving the seating positions of many of the members in attendance, the majority of members were not in a position to see this.
All members in attendance confirmed that Mr Woolfe rose quickly to his feet after his fall.
The majority of members in attendance confirmed that Mr Woolfe seemed calm after his fall.
A small number of members in attendance suggested that Mr Woolfe was visibly shaking after his fall.
Both Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem resumed their seats for a brief period as the meeting attempted to re-start. Almost immediately, Mr Woolfe rose to his feet and made it clear that he didn’t feel his continued presence at the meeting would benefit the discussion further. Mr Woolfe also made it clear that it was for the delegation to determine whether it was willing to support his leadership bid. Mr Woolfe then left at approximately 10:20am.
All members in attendance confirmed that at the time of his leaving the room, there were no visible marks on Mr Woolfe to indicate that he had received a blow to his face during the altercation.
Mr Hookem also left the meeting early, approximately 25 minutes later at 10:45am. He began the journey home from the Parliament in Strasbourg, back to the UK.
The meeting concluded and was immediately followed by a delegation voting meeting. Neither Mr Woolfe, nor Mr Hookem attended that meeting.
At 12pm, Mr Woolfe was seen in the main voting chamber of the Parliament. He was joined by several UKIP colleagues.
After a brief time, Mr Woolfe was seen moving briskly towards doors at the back of the chamber.
Mr Woolfe told the investigation that he felt unwell and that he realised he needed to “get to the medical centre quickly”.
Some members in attendance remember seeing Mr Woolfe exit the chamber, believing he looked “ok”, but noticing he was in a hurry. They surmised that this might have been for Mr Woolfe to “catch a flight” or some other means of transport back to the UK.
Shortly after exiting the chamber, Mr Woolfe collapsed whilst crossing a connecting bridge within the European Parliament.
Medical staff were called and began an immediate assessment of the condition of Mr Woolfe. This resulted in his transportation to a local hospital, at which further tests took place.
Mr Woolfe informed the investigation that he had suffered extradural haematoma, two seizures and a contusion.
The investigation finds it reasonable to believe that the hospitalisation of Mr Woolfe was as a result of the blow he took to the back of his head, due to his fall.
The investigation has not had sight of the medical records for Mr Woolfe and so cannot confirm or deny this.
Reporting on the incident.
On the morning of Friday, 7th October, an interview was printed in the Daily Mail newspaper, purporting to give direct quotes from Mr Woolfe on the altercation. This interview took place after the party Leader had announced that an internal investigation would be held.
Several of the “quotes” gave an account of the altercation which painted Mr Woolfe as a victim and Mr Hookem as the instigator and the aggressor. It also claimed that Mr Hookem had punched Mr Woolfe – although this was later revised to a blow.
The version of events as outlined in this report has been heavily questioned by the majority of members who were in attendance.
When questioned about this interview, Mr Woolfe claimed that he had spoken to a “former UKIP Member in confidence” and that he had not intended for his quotes to make it into the public domain.
It is clear that the events surrounding this altercation have bought great shame on the parties involved. The behaviour of both Mr Woolfe and Mr Hookem falls far below what we would expect from any member of our party, particular those who hold such high office.
The investigation acknowledges both the apology, and the regret articulated by Mr Hookem over his involvement in the incident.
The investigation notes that Mr Woolfe has not accepted any responsibility, nor has he apologised for his involvement in the incident.
The investigation notes that Mr Woolfe has now left UKIP and so has moved beyond the reach of this investigation. Any action now taken by the party therefore would be solely applicable to Mr Hookem.
(1) The investigation finds that Mr Woolfe instigated the altercation by suggesting that he and Mr Hookem deal with their differences “man to man”. It also believes it reasonable to assume Mr Woolfe meant for it to be a physical altercation, as it had been perceived by a clear majority of members in attendance.
(2) The investigation finds that Mr Hookem failed to give due consideration to the reputation of the party when deciding to accept the suggestion from Mr Woolfe, that the two of them deal with their differences “man to man”.
(3) The investigation cannot confirm what took place in the anteroom and so offers no determination on what the facts might be.
(4) The investigation cannot determine what was responsible for Mr Woolfe falling backwards through the door. What is certain is that the door was opened from inside the anteroom prior to Mr Woolfe falling. It is clear that Mr Hookem was not close enough to the door to have opened it himself. It is also clear that nobody in the main meeting room opened it. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Mr Woolfe opened the door whilst attempting to exit the anteroom backwards. The investigation does find it unlikely that Mr Hookem was in a position to be able to push Mr Woolfe through the door, given where he was standing in the anteroom immediately afterwards, but in the absence of an eye witness, it cannot make a definitive determination
(5) The investigation finds that the quotes given to the Daily Mail for the article of Friday 7th October, at a time when the party were conducting an investigation and requesting all members avoid speculation, did bring the party into disrepute. Had Mr Woolfe continued his membership of the party, a disciplinary panel would have been convened to investigate these quotes.
Whilst the interviews given by Mr Hookem to the media thereafter were regrettable, the investigation agrees that the conduct of Mr Hookem was understandable given the provocative nature of the Daily Mail article from Friday 7th October.
Action by Chairman
The decision of Mr Hookem to join Mr Woolfe in the anteroom is the only action which I have the ability to consider for disciplinary action. In the absence of eye witnesses, the true facts of what took place in the anteroom itself are impossible to determine and neither man has made an official complaint to the party over the incident.
Had Mr Woolfe not collapsed later that day, we may never have known that the altercation took place at all.
However, as Chairman, I’m appalled that such a situation could arise between two of our most high profile representatives and I have strongly considered suspension as a possible course of action.
I do however take into consideration the following:
(1) The apology and regret shown by Mr Hookem, for agreeing to join Mr Woolfe in the anteroom.
(2) The excellent record of Mr Hookem in representing UKIP and its values prior to this incident.
(3) Acknowledging that Mr Hookem, whilst foolish, was not the instigator of this incident or subsequent press coverage and as such cannot be held principally responsible for either taking place.
In light of this, a formal reprimand will be placed on the internal record of Mr Hookem to be considered in the event of a reoccurrence of any infraction which might cause damage to the reputation of the party.
This matter ia now closed.