Ukip votes to sack leader after less than five months

Mr Henry Bolton became Ukip's fourth leader in a year last September. His lover had made offensive comments that were leaked last month about Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle.
Mr Henry Bolton became Ukip's fourth leader in a year last September. His lover had made offensive comments that were leaked last month about Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The British eurosceptic UK Independence Party was thrown into turmoil again last Saturday when its members removed leader Henry Bolton after less than five months in charge, following criticism of his leadership and a scandal about racist comments made by his lover.

The anti-European Union Ukip was an influential force in bringing about a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU in 2016, but has struggled to maintain its relevance since the country voted to leave the bloc.

Former army officer Bolton, 54, became Ukip's fourth leader in a year last September, backed by the party's former leader Nigel Farage to turn the party's fortunes around.

But on Saturday, 63 per cent of 1,378 ballots cast at an extraordinary general meeting were for his removal.

"I'm slightly disappointed... It's not a great feeling," Mr Bolton told Sky News, though he did not rule out running for leader again. "I'm not finished in politics, it's just one of those bumps in the road."

His 25-year-old lover Jo Marney had made offensive comments, leaked last month, about Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle, whose mother is African-American, in text messages to a friend.

Under Mr Farage, who continued to back Mr Bolton after the scandal, Ukip won nearly 4 million votes, or a 12.6 per cent share of ballots, in the 2015 election on its anti-EU platform. But the party has seen its poll ratings slide since and struggled to move out of Mr Farage's shadow since the referendum.

Mr Neil Hamilton, Ukip's leader in Wales, told Sky that Mr Farage had been "shackling himself to a corpse" in supporting Mr Bolton.

Outgoing party chairman Paul Oakden said a new election would happen within 90 days. Mr Gerard Batten, a member of the European Parliament for London and the party's former Brexit spokesman, was made interim leader.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline 'Ukip votes to sack leader after less than five months'. Print Edition | Subscribe