HEALTH problems and concerns over political direction have led the leader of Swindon’s UK Independence Party to stand down.

Robert Feal-Martinez has resigned as chairman of the Swindon UKIP group and as prospective parliamentary candidate for South Swindon.

Local Conservatives have admitted they would welcome discussions with Mr Feal-Martinez if he decided to change parties.

The landlord of South Marston pub, the Carpenters Arms, had an operation on his eye last year and has also recently been diagnosed as having diabetes.

He said his resignation had sparked feelings both of relief and sadness.

“I am disappointed to have to step down but with my health problems I had to make a decision on where my energies should be best directed,” he said.

“I have to put my business first, especially in this difficult time for the economy.”

Mr Feal-Martinez admitted he disagreed with certain decisions by UKIP nationally.

He said: “The party is still committed to leaving Europe but there seems to be an opinion that if we could do a deal to achieve that then fine.

“Essentially if someone like Justin Tomlinson (Tory candidate for Swindon North) or Robert Buckland (Tory candidate for Swindon South) supported an ‘out’ vote we would not stand in their way.

“I do not agree that our own members should be sidelined in that way.”

Coun Justin Tomlinson said Mr Feal-Martinez’s resignation would be a huge blow to UKIP and that he would be a welcome addition to the Conservative Party.

He said: “Bob is someone I have worked with over a number of years and, while I don’t agree with him 100 per cent of the time, I think he has much to offer.”

South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove said: “This just goes to show that UKIP is in real trouble in Swindon and I’m not surprised that Robert has found it necessary to stand down.

“I wish him well in recovering from his health problems and I’m sure he will continue to be a big presence in Swindon, particularly in the blogosphere.”

Mr Feal-Martinez confirmed that he would continue to comment regularly on the Swindon Advertiser’s website.

He said: “I’m sure I will get some stick on the comments but I have my say and I can handle criticism.”

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