London: Ukip’s leader Henry Bolton has insisted he wants to stay in the job despite a furore over offensive messages sent by his former girlfriend, saying the party could collapse if its national executive ousted him.
In interviews before the meeting on Sunday, when the national executive could pass a vote of no confidence against him, Bolton also said he had done nothing wrong in his liaison with Jo Marney.
Bolton’s position has come under increasing pressure after social media and text messages from Marney emerged in which she used racist terms about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancee, among other offensive language.
Bolton said a new leadership election to replace him — a fourth since 2016 — would be “unviable” for Ukip’s finances, and could finish it as a party.
“If the NEC decides to go down the route of months of further infighting and further negative media scrutiny by deciding to pass a vote of no confidence in me, then I think that the reality is that the party is probably over,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday show.
Bolton, 54, began a relationship with Marney, a 25-year-old Ukip activist and model, at Christmas, but has said it ended in the wake of the offensive messages, and that she has resigned from the party.
The relationship has seen the end of his marriage to his wife, Tatiana, with whom he has daughters aged five and 19 months. They live in Vienna where she supports the family — his Ukip job is unpaid — through a job with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Bolton said he did not feel the need to apologise for the situation: “I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong. My own personal life is a bit of a mess at the moment, and I need to sort that out, of course, but I’m not letting it distract me one iota from my job as the leader.”
His position has been weakened by a series of resignations by leading Ukip figures, including MEPs Bill Etheridge and Jonathan Arnott, the latter of whom has also left the party. On Sunday his Brexit spokesman, Gerard Batten, said Bolton should quit.
But in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar on Politics show, Bolton said the NEC should be “concerned more about the elements within the party that are busy engaged in infighting and in undermining the party and its coherence”.
He said: “They are not a court of moral judgement, and indeed while my personal life is of public interest, this is a matter of the survival and the future of the United Kingdom Independence party, and that is what they should be looking at.”
Asked about the impact of Marney’s messages, he said: “I did not produce them. They were produced before I even met Jo Marney. She has resigned from the party, she has made a public statement and a statement to the party members apologising profusely, and she is appalled at what happened.”
Bolton and Marney were photographed dining together in London last week, after he had said the relationship was over. Asked about that he said: “I’ve stated very clearly that the romantic element of the relationship is over. Jo’s life has been turned on its head. I will support her in rebuilding her life. And that’s just an honest, decent, human thing to do.”
Bolton also warned against the idea of new parties or movements being launched to replace Ukip, amid speculation that the party’s former long-time leader, Nigel Farage, could be planning such a thing.
Ukip was the only “flag bearer for the Brexit cause”, Bolton said: “If it does implode, and I acknowledge there is a risk of that, then I’m sure other parties and movements will emerge. But they will not be an effective voice for Brexit.”
— Guardian News & Media Ltd