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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Racism scandal causes chaos in Eurosceptic party that changed Britain

Two top figures have left the UK Independence Party (UKIP) after its leader Henry Bolton refused to resign despite a vote of no confidence

The leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has faced repeated calls to resign after his girlfriend reportedly made racist remarks about Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle. Ben Stansall/ AFP Photo
The leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has faced repeated calls to resign after his girlfriend reportedly made racist remarks about Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle. Ben Stansall/ AFP Photo

UKIP, the populist party that successfully fought for Britain to leave the EU, is in disarray after its leader Henry Bolton refused to step down despite the party’s committee backing a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

"I shall not be resigning as party leader," he told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Instead, Mr Bolton said it was "time to drain the swamp" in the party, referring to the ongoing factional infighting.

Twelve party members resigned earlier on Monday in protest at Mr Bolton’s continued stewardship, which came under fire last week following a racism scandal involving his girlfriend.

Deputy leader Margot Parker said Mr Bolton had left the party in a “limbo situation” and demanded he step down.

“It would be quicker and cleaner if he came to the conclusion he could go sooner rather than later,” she told BBC Radio. “This is taking time away from doing the job. This puts the party in a limbo situation.”

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While immigration spokesman John Bickley said Mr Bolton needed to realise his “time is up”.

“We need to make it clear to Mr Bolton that his time is up. It would really be in his interests in going to sort out his personal life and get away from politics,” Mr Bickley told LBC radio.

“By a number of people resigning and saying they don't want to work with him, that helps make up his decision for him.”

The assistant deputy speaker and the local government, education, and trade spokesmen also resigned.

Calls for Mr Bolton, 54, to step aside began last week when it was revealed his girlfriend Jo Marney, 25, had sent a string of offensive messages about Prince Harry's fiancée, Meghan Markle.

The Mail on Sunday reported Ms Marney, a glamour model, had referred to black people as “ugly” and accused Ms Markle of tainting the British royal family.

Ms Marney has since apologised about the “shocking language” in the messages but added that they had been taken out of context.

Media speculation surrounding Mr Bolton’s personal life began earlier this month when he went public with Ms Marney after leaving his wife with whom he has two children.

He later claimed to have ended the relationship when the details of the messages emerged.

Before the vote of no confidence on Sunday night Mr Bolton appeared on a television interview saying that he did not believe he had “done anything wrong”.

He told ITV: “My own personal life, it’s a little bit of a mess at the moment. I need to sort that out, of course.”

Mr Bolton said a leadership contest would be “financially unviable” for the party.

An emergency meeting, which must be held in the next 28 days, will decide whether Mr Bolton stays on as leader.

UKIP has been in turmoil since its widely-recognised leader Nigel Farage stood down in September 2016.

Since Mr Farage's departure, the party has had three leaders, including one- Diane James- who quit after just 18 days in office.

The party failed to convince voters it still had a raison d'être in the 2017 UK general election following the Brexit vote the previous year.