Members of Ukip voted yesterday to sack Henry Bolton, who had been elected only last September as the crisis-hit party’s fourth leader in 18 months.
Bolton had been clinging on to the leadership despite a revolt by senior figures after the press reported his relationship with Jo Marney, a model who sent offensive messages about Meghan Markle, the fiancee of Prince Harry.
Bolton was ousted on Saturday at an emergency meeting where an overwhelming majority of party members endorsed a motion of no confidence in his leadership passed by the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC). Activists at the meeting in Birmingham voted by 867 to 500 in favour of a no-confidence motion on his ability to lead Ukip.
The party’s new interim leader is Gerard Batten, a Ukip MEP who sparked controversy last year when he said that non-Muslims should have a “perfectly rational fear” of Islam, which he described as a “death cult” steeped in violence. To cheers, he told members on Saturday that getting rid of Bolton was the best result that could have been achieved.
“We have had many many crises in Ukip and I think this one today was about whether we have a future or not,” Batten told the meeting.
Speaking after the vote, Bolton said that he did not know whether he would stand again as leader, and hinted at “other options” which could include joining or setting up another party. “I am slightly disappointed. You don’t embark upon something like this with the intention of losing,” he told Sky News.
“It’s not a great feeling but you can’t keep a good man down and I have not finished with politics. It’s just one of those bumps in the road. I’ve just spoken to my team, we’ve had a quick batting around of the different options and we’ll continue doing that over the next few days.”
Bolton also said he was considering legal action to challenge the way the process to oust him was handled. The election of a fifth party leader since Nigel Farage’s resignation in September 2016 will take place within 90 days.
Before the vote, Bolton had disclosed that he still had “strong affections” for his former girlfriend and he compared the scrutiny of his private life with that faced by Diana, Princess of Wales.
When the result was announced Marney posted on Twitter: “Pffft. Bunch of muppets. My love for Henry is unconditional of political leaderships. I ain’t going anywhere.”
Ukip’s general secretary, Paul Oakley, had suggested that Bolton’s days as leader were numbered even if he survived the vote.
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