Steven Woolfe, a rising star in the UK Independence Party, is recovering from an "altercation" at a meeting with fellow party members Thursday morning in Strasbourg. He was taken to a local hospital for tests after being punched in the face, initial reports stated, though the incident has yet to be confirmed.
Following emergency checks at the hospital, Woolfe, who turned 49 today, released a statement saying he was "feeling brighter, happier, and smiling as ever" and that a CT scan showed no blood clots on the brain. A bit later he tweeted a thank-you to his caregivers and well-wishers.
Initial reports said Woolfe collapsed as he left the European Parliament building, where the meeting was held.
The populist Independence Party, known as UKIP, represents the largest number of UK seats in the European Parliament, riding in on a wave of immigration concerns that materialized this June in a referendum vote to leave the EU, an issue that's been central to the party's platform since its inception in 1993.
Steven Woolfe is widely seen as the favorite to become UKIP's next leader, after Diane James' surprise announcement this week to step down from that role after only 18 days on the job. And just yesterday, The Guardian reported that Woolfe had been thinking about defecting to the Conservative Party following the election of Theresa May as leader in February. A UKIP source said that the purpose of the meeting today was to "clear the air." After the supposed altercation with another MEP, Woolfe is thought to have hit his head against a metal bar, after which "they both went about their business, but later he collapsed on the floor," said the Guardian report.
The perpetrator has been identified by local media as fellow UKIP member Mike Hookem. Thus far the UKIP member has been silent, not answering calls from anyone, including fellow senior party members.
A chief architect of the successful Brexit movement and UKIP's interim leader Nigel Farage issued a statement expressing his concern for Woolfe's health and regret that an altercation had taken place during a meeting of UKIP MEPs. And former spokesperson for UKIP, Suzanne Evans, tweeted her hope that Woolfe would make a speedy recovery:
Shocked to hear Steven Woolfe has apparently collapsed in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Wishing him well for a speedy recovery.
— Suzanne Evans (@SuzanneEvans1)October 6, 2016