The right-hand man of National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen has quit as the French far-right party descends into acrimony following its heavy defeat in the presidential elections.
Florian Philippot was the party's chief of strategy, the man behind shifting FN's focus from immigration to the impact of globalisation on workers. But the 35-year-old was blamed by party hardliners for losing votes at the May poll to centrist Emmanuel Macron, who became French President.
He left the party a day after Le Pen stripped him of his strategic role, leaving him in what he saw as a largely symbolic post of vice president.
"They told me that I was vice-president of nothing," Philippot told France 2. "Listen, I'm not into being ridiculed. I have no taste for doing nothing, so of course I am leaving the Front National."
The politician, who is gay, came to be seen as the emblem of the FN's embracing of liberal social values under Le Pen's leadership. He was brought in by Le Pen in 2010 to help her campaign to detoxify the xenophobic movement that was founded by her father, Jean-Marie.
However, Philippot's exit brings to a head a crisis that erupted in the 45-year-old party after it performed poorly in both the May presidential and June parliamentary elections.
Le Pen, and other close aides, blamed her loss partly on the party's emphasis on leaving the euro and withdrawing from the European Union, which later polling revealed was a turn-off for many French voters.
Many hardliners think the focus of the party should return to mass immigration. Robert Menard, the FN mayor of the southern town of Beziers and Ms Le Pen's partner Louis Aliot, also an MP, were among those who campaigned against Philippot.
After Philippot's resignation Aliot called him a "vain, arrogant and sectarian extremist who tried to muzzle our freedom to debate".
Tempestuous months ahead
Le Pen turned against her lieutenant in the summer after he founded an anti-EU movement within the party called the Patriots. She ordered him to disband the group last week and he refused, which led to him being stripped of his strategy role.
The FN has overcome previous bitter feuds, but faces a tempestuous coming months. It was already reeling from the exit of Marion Maréchal Le Pen. Marine's niece and a rising FN star stepped down after the presidential election saying she wanted to spend more time with her family.
The far-right party is also losing ground to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), who is increasingly being seen as the voice of opposition to Macron.
The leftist, who is calling for mass demonstrations on Saturday (23 September) against Macron's labour reforms, described the FN feud as "perfect".
Mélenchon added: "It's a party that counts for nothing. Those that were angry but aren't fascists, I urge them to turn their back [on the FN] and come and join us."