LONDON Mike Hookem, defence spokesman for Britain's UK Independence Party (UKIP), denied punching a colleague who later needed hospital treatment after collapsing in the European Parliament but said on Friday the two men had been involved in a scuffle.
"It was ... handbags at dawn," Hookem, 62, told BBC TV the day after he clashed with Steven Woolfe, another UKIP member of the European Parliament (MEP) who is a leading candidate to be the party's new leader.
Woolfe was taken to hospital and suffered two seizures after he collapsed in the EU legislature in Strasbourg. A party investigation and a European Parliament disciplinary inquiry are to be held into the incident which occurred at a meeting of UKIP MEPs on Thursday.
Hookem said the clash occurred as Woolfe explained to the meeting why he had said he was considering joining Britain's ruling Conservative Party despite putting his name forward to replace the leader who resigned this week after just 18 days.
"He stood up in front of everybody and said across the room to me 'let's take it outside the room' ... taking his jacket off to go outside. I then followed him out into an ante-room," he told the BBC.
"When I walked in, he approached me to attack me. I defended myself. There were no punches thrown, there was no face-slapping there was nothing. There was a bit of a scuffle but there was no physical violence."
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)