A row has broken out between UK Independence Party (Ukip) members and their leader after the life peer asked electors to vote against his own party.

Members of Ukip's South West Regional Committee said they were "at odds" with Lord Pearson of Rannoch after he wrote to a media group urging voters not to support his party in three Somerset constituencies.

The committee said Lord Pearson had a "long-held belief" that Ukip should not stand against eurosceptic candidates in other parties.

As a result, he has asked constituents in Wells, Somerton & Frome, and Taunton Deane to back the Conservatives.

The statement from the Ukip South West Regional Committee said: "The UK Independence Party in the South West has the greatest respect for our leader, Lord Malcolm Pearson, and regret finding ourselves at odds with him over one vital area of his policy.

"Lord Pearson has written to media outlets in the region with the message that he does not want people to support his own party in three Somerset constituencies but to give their support to the Conservatives.

"We understand that Lord Pearson has long held this belief that Ukip should not stand against eurosceptic candidates in other parties."

The statement said that, during a visit to Bristol in April, Lord Pearson, 67, was confronted by more than 50 Ukip candidates who did not agree with this policy.

It went on: "Regrettably, Lord Pearson has chosen to ignore this firm and clearly expressed decision and has taken the step of asking the electors to vote against his own party.

"The South West Regional Committee has once again endorsed the decision to ignore Lord Pearson on this policy matter and will fight the seats in Wells, Taunton Dean and Somerton & Frome."