UKIP leader Paul Nuttall is ready to carry on as leader “without question” his deputy has told the BBC.
Peter Whittle said his party was “more united than ever” with a “sense of renewed purpose” despite failing to take Stoke-on-Trent Central from Labour in Thursday’s by-election.
Mr Nuttall said he was “not going anywhere” after the defeat. Mr Whittle told Andrew Marr he was currently “on a trip he had booked” beforehand.
Labour held Stoke with 7,853 votes.
Gareth Snell beat Mr Nuttall into second place on 5,233 votes.
Mr Whittle said Mr Nuttall was taking time out after the “gruelling time” he had been through and the “particularly personal” attacks he experienced.
The UKIP leader was criticised over fake claims he lost close friends in the Hillsborough tragedy and investigated by police over whether he spent time in the house he rented during the campaign to be elected as the local MP.
Mr Whittle said of his leader: “Without question, he has united the party. Of course it’s disappointing that we didn’t win in Stoke. But we are more united than ever, everything is more in place than ever and there’s a real sense of renewed purpose.”
Asked about a report in the Sunday Express that multi-millionaire UKIP donor Arron Banks had threatened to take his money elsewhere unless he was made chairman, Mr Whittle said the party already had a “great, young, dynamic chairman” in Paul Oakden.
While he was “always very grateful for Arron’s contributions”, he added: “If Arron were to take his money away, there are always other people… Obviously I wouldn’t want that to happen.”
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage had said the Stoke seat was “fundamental” to the party’s future, in a constituency where 69% of the electorate voted to leave at the EU at the referendum.
Mr Whittle said Mr Nuttall had only been leader for 12 weeks at the time of the by-election and people “hadn’t got to know him well enough”.
Nuttall backed to carry on at UKIP}