UKIP crisis could bankrupt party

David Lawrence - 22 01 18

Yesterday UKIP’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), took a vote of no confidence against leader Henry Bolton. The vote was carried unanimously (save from the besieged leader himself).

Bolton has been mired in controversy since leaving his wife for party member Jo Marney, who made a series of racist comments. Marney has since resigned from UKIP and Bolton has claimed that he has ended his “romantic” relationship with her (although the pair have since been snapped dining together).

In better days during a one-month long relationship

Despite the overwhelming wishes of the NEC, the embattled Bolton has refused to resign. As the situation currently stands, an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) will be held within 27 days, giving members the chance to endorse or reject the NEC’s vote.

The date and location of the meeting will be announced within the next ten days.

Bolton faces intense pressure to quit; a series of frontbench members have stepped down in protest, including Deputy Leader Margot Parker MEP and the party’s immigration spokesman John Bickley. Peter  Whittle, the party’s spokesperson for London, has also quit today.

Other prominent UKIP figures, including Neil Hamilton and Gerard Batten, are now calling for the UKIP leader’s resignation. We wrote last week of an apparent attempted coup led by UKIP’s scandal-prone MEP Bill Etheridge and former leadership candidate Ben Walker.

Bleak prospects

Bolton’s chances of survival are slim. He has always been an unpopular leader, securing just 29.9% of the vote in the leadership election to beat far-right candidate Anne Marie Waters into second place.

In the intervening four months, it has become clear that he lacks the force of personality to hold the party together and inspire voters, and his singular source of appeal – that he was an uncontroversial, “respectable” moderate – has been trashed.

However if UKIP is forced to hold its fourth leadership contest in just 16 months it could potentially bankrupt the party. Bolton wrote to members in November that “there is no money – in fact for a year we have been running on an entirely unsustainable monthly deficit”.

He claimed on ITV’s Peston on Sunday that another leadership contest would not be “financially viable” for the party.

Marie Waters, who has formed her own anti-Muslim group For Britain, announced last week that her party is now seeking to poach sitting UKIP councillors. The looming exodus of UKIP members has afforded her the perfect opportunity.

Indeed, Waters has a speaking event planned in Hartlepool on 7 February, and UKIP’s Hartlepool branch has all but folded in the wake of the scandal.

Anne Marie Waters, leader of For Britain

New party?

As crisis surrounds UKIP, its former leader and talisman Nigel Farage has reportedly again been in talks with former UKIP donor Arron Banks about forming a new political vehicle in case of Bolton’s departure.

The multimillionaire Banks has repeatedly spoken of forging a new movement to replace UKIP, but as of yet, nothing has materialised.

Farage has dismissed a return as UKIP leader, which has entrenched organisational problems and has been losing money, members and morale ever since the momentous EU Referendum in June 2016.

Claiming he is “skint” and that “there is no money in politics” (despite enjoying several prominent media positions), Farage has appeared reticent to re-enter party politics and downplayed the possibility of launching a new political party on LBC radio yesterday.

He did, however, speak about the need “to get Leave campaigners back working together” from a “cross-party perspective”. Farage’s much-vaunted return to politics could well be as the face of a campaign in the mould of Banks’ ugly, anti-immigrant Leave.EU, rather than in the tiresome grind of leading an electoral party.

As the UKIP ship continues to sink, Farage remains the only figure in the UK able to breathe life into the bedraggled, right-wing populist movement in the UK. HOPE not hate will continue to follow his movements closely.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage


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