UKIP crisis as top figures quit and tell leader Henry Bolton to go
22 January 2018, 07:18
A series of senior UKIP figures have quit their roles and called on party chief Henry Bolton to resign - but the embattled leader has hinted he "may" fight on.
Deputy leader Margot Parker and a slew of the party's spokespeople have stood down following Sunday's vote of no confidence in Mr Bolton by UKIP's ruling body.
The emergency action by the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) followed a row over his relationship with a 25-year-old model accused of sending racist messages about Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle.
However, despite seeing a significant part of his top team resign and call on him to go, Mr Bolton claimed on Monday he "may" try to fight on as UKIP leader.
Asked if he would use a statement on Monday afternoon to announce his intention to remain in his role, Mr Bolton told the Press Association: "It may be. I'm making a statement at four o'clock."
Having quit as Mr Bolton's deputy, Ms Parker, MEP for the East Midlands, claimed Mr Bolton's "personal life took over the job he was elected to do".
She told BBC Radio Northampton: "It would be quicker and cleaner if he came to the conclusion he could go sooner rather than later.
"This is taking time away from doing the job. This puts the party in a limbo situation."
John Bickley, an NEC member, resigned from his role as immigration spokesman on LBC Radio on Monday in order "to make it clear to Mr Bolton that his time is up".
"It would really be in his interests... to go and sort out his personal life and get away from politics," he said.
William Dartmouth, MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, quit his position as trade spokesman and used an open letter to Mr Bolton to brand his continuing leadership "untenable".
David Kurten, a London Assembly member, resigned as education spokesman and urged Mr Bolton to "step down with dignity".
Mike Hookem, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber and UKIP's assistant deputy leader, left his role on Friday before making a public announcement on Monday.
"Rather than media reports being focused on the hard work of the party and our members in fighting for Brexit, the story has become about the leader's personal life," he said.
"This is unfair to all those who have put so much time, effort and money into our party.
"I now urge Mr Bolton to stand down as a matter of priority, for the good of the party and the grassroots membership."
Tim Aker, MEP for the East of England, gave up his local government brief, Peter Whittle, a London Assembly member, resigned as London spokesman, while Gerard Batten, MEP for London, had earlier resigned as the party's Brexit spokesman on Sunday night.
Following the NEC's action on Sunday, party members will now be balloted on whether to endorse the no confidence vote within the next month, unless Mr Bolton resigns.
But, prior to Sunday's vote, Mr Bolton told Sky News he was "not going anywhere".
The 54-year-old married father-of-three has come under intense pressure over his relationship with party activist Jo Marney.
Mr Bolton said he had ended the "romantic element" of their relationship last week, when Ms Marney's messages about Ms Markle emerged.
She was also reported to have sent separate messages making jokes about child sexual abuse.
Former leader Nigel Farage has expressed fears UKIP may not survive a third leadership contest in the space of two years, but said he is not planning a comeback.
His spokesman told Sky News: "There is no chance. He wouldn't consider it for a second".
Neil Hamilton, UKIP's Wales leader, is also among senior party figures calling on Mr Bolton to resign.
He said: "His recent behaviour has been so irrational, he should seek psychological help."
Last week, the party's former general secretary Jonathan Arnott quit UKIP completely and will now sit as an independent MEP in the European Parliament.
Since Mr Farage stood down after the Brexit vote in 2016, UKIP has had three permanent leaders and two acting leaders, including a temporary return by Mr Farage himself.
(c) Sky News 2018: UKIP crisis as top figures quit and tell leader Henry Bolton to go