FORMER Sedgley councillor Bill Etheridge has quit UKIP.

The West Midlands MEP has said differences between himself and the party's current leader Gerard Batten were behind his decision.

In his resignation letter, which is addressed to Mr Batten, he said that joining the purple party in 2011 was the "best decision" of his life, adding: "At one stage it looked like we were about to achieve a miracle and become a major force in Westminster regularly polling around 20 per cent and offering a genuine new option in British politics."

But he said the changes made by Mr Batten had "changed the party beyond all recognition", adding: "You have allowed your personal obsessions free reign. "The party is now seen by large swathes of the British public as a vehicle for hate towards Muslims and the gay community.

"In addition, you and your entourage have imposed a manifesto upon us, which actually includes nationalisations and more state control, anathema for a party, which has libertarianism enshrined in its constitution.

"While there is a place for extreme nationalist and reactionary views in politics and I defend the right of you and others to hold and express your opinions, I do not believe these were the opinions and policies that UKIP MEPs were elected to represent.

"The best way for me to see out my mandate and to represent the huge numbers of people who voted UKIP and for Brexit in the West Midlands is to resign my membership of UKIP but to remain in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group under the inspired and rational leadership of Nigel Farage.

"I wish UKIP well and leave with great sadness that the party I loved has left me and taken a different direction."

However Mr Batten has called for Mr Etheridge to "do the decent and honourable thing and resign his seat, thereby handing it back to UKIP to which it morally belongs".

He continued: "I am sure the loss of his salary, daily allowance, and pension rights would be a small price to pay for a man of principle such as he.

"It was a great pity that Mr Etheridge was unable to make it to the UKIP Conference in Birmingham last month where he could have witnessed the party members fully behind my leadership – the people who put him in the seat he currently holds by dint of their efforts and donations."