Ukip's leader refuses to quit and warns its ruling executive not to 'pull party apart'

Joe Watts

Ukip leader Henry Bolton has said he will not stand down even if the party’s ruling executive passes a vote of no confidence in him on Sunday.

The defiant leader warned that if Ukip’s National Executive Committee (NEC) took the wrong decision over the matter it would “pull the party apart”.

He also said that he may continue to see his former girlfriend Jo Marney, albeit not romantically, despite her being at the centre of a scandal over racist texts she allegedly sent about Meghan Markle.

Mr Bolton, 54, was speaking after the row over his relationship with Ms Marney, 25, sparked a leadership crisis in his party, which is saddled with debts and thought unlikely to be able to afford another leadership contest.

It follows reports that former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and ex-donor Arron Banks were in talks to set up a successor party in the wake of any collapse.

Mr Bolton said: “[A new leadership election] is going to disrupt us. It’s going to take three to five months of a refocusing on that election. It’s going to take us off the battlefield for the Brexit debate.

“We can’t afford to do that politically. At the same time the infighting that will result will give our political enemies more than enough ammunition to pull the party apart.

“In fact the party, if the NEC makes the wrong decision today, the party will start doing that itself.”

If the executive does pass a motion of no confidence then the membership would be asked to decide on Mr Bolton’s future, but he urged the group to focus on Brexit and claimed there is a coup going on against him.

Mr Bolton faces the crunch meeting in the wake of revelations Ms Marney sent racist messages about Ms Markle.

She was suspended from the party, and according to Mr Bolton has now fully resigned, over the texts which said Prince Harry’s fiancée would ‘taint’ the Royals with her ‘seed’ and pave the way for a ‘black king’.

In response, Mr Bolton claimed to have ended the ‘romantic’ side of the relationship – only to be subsequently spotted enjoying a dinner with Ms Marney.

Speaking to BBC One’s Sunday Politics, he went on: “As I said the romantic element is over. It would be inhuman of me to just simply walk away and cut that link entirely.

“I am not going to do that, so that is quite simple.”

If Mr Bolton goes, the party will have to find its fifth leader in 18 months. It is heavily in debt and would struggle to afford the contest.

Mr Farage told The Independent on Sunday that he has held talks in recent weeks about new anti-Brexit campaign groups, but said the idea of a Ukip successor party was not yet “on his radar”.

He added that he had been discussing a “cross-party” effort to try and increase pressure for a hard Brexit.

Reports from an unnamed source appeared in Sunday papers saying talks had been held about Ukip 2.0 which would be chaired by Mr Banks, while Mr Farage could become president.