Ukip members vote to sack leader Henry Bolton
PUBLISHED: 16:50 17 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:10 17 February 2018
Henry Bolton has been ousted as Ukip leader after party members backed a motion of no confidence in him.
At a crisis meeting in Birmingham, activists voted by 867 to 500 to express their lack of faith in his ability to lead the party.
The move now leaves the party facing a further period of uncertainty, with Mr Bolton forced out after only being elected in September last year.
Mr Bolton had attempted to cling on to the leadership despite a no confidence vote by the ruling national executive committee (NEC) and a revolt by several senior figures in the party in protest at his relationship with model Jo Marney.
Mr Bolton said he still has “strong affections” for his former girlfriend who sent offensive messages about Meghan Markle, and compared the scrutiny of his private life to that faced by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Ukip will face a fresh leadership election within 90 days.
Outgoing chairman Paul Oakden said: “Henry Bolton has been removed by the democratic decision of the membership”.
Gerard Batten will take over as Ukip’s interim leader.
He did not rule out standing for the leadership on a permanent basis.
He issued a dismissive response to suggestions Mr Bolton could take legal action against the party.
Asked what his message to Mr Bolton was he said: “Get on with the rest of your life.”
Mr Batten said Ukip’s membership had made the right decision to sack Henry Bolton.
“We have had many crises in Ukip and I think this one today was about whether we have a future or not,” he said.
He told his fellow members: “I believe that you have made the best decision that you could in the circumstances.”
Speculation is mounting that Mr Bolton’s exit could pave the way for the return of former leader Nigel Farage.
Senior Ukip figure Suzanne Evans told the Press Association ahead of the vote that it was “crunch time” for the party and Mr Farage should again take the helm.
The pro-Brexit party has lurched from crisis to crisis since Mr Farage relinquished power following the 2016 referendum, with a succession of leading party figures failing to keep a grip on the leadership.
Mr Bolton refused to rule out the possibility that he could join another party after being driven from the leadership.
He told Sky News: “You can’t keep a good man down, I’m not finished in politics, so 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.”
Asked whether he could stand for Ukip leader again or for another party, he said: “I’m not ruling out any option at the moment - the only time that I will rule options is during the process of making decisions.”
Mr Bolton also denied reports that he threatened to sue the party during the leadership contest, saying: “There have been issues that I believe and my legal advice believes has been instrumental in creating a situation which has brought about this vote of no confidence and this EGM.
“The NEC have the proof of that but have decided not to take any action about it until after the EGM.”
East of England Ukip MEP Stuart Agnew told the BBC: “I am hugely relieved at today’s decision, there will be a fall out from this, some people will leave but we can now pick ourselves up and rebuild.”
East of England Labour MEP Alex Mayer said: “Another one bites the dust - what a shambolic mess! This must now spell the end for a mean, divisive, intolerant party that will be remembered as a blip in the history of our country that sadly led us down a dark path to a poorer, weaker and more isolated future.”