- Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage comes out in support of the party’s current leader Henry Bolton.
- Bolton is under pressure to quit over racist text messages sent by his ex-girlfriend.
- But Farage UKIP is “collapsing” and must keep Bolton in charge to avoid “self-destruction.”
- The pro-Brexit party is teetering towards bankruptcy after being ordered to pay at least £200,000 in legal fees.
LONDON – Nigel Farage has come out in support of embattled UKIP leader Henry Bolton.
UKIP is “collapsing” and needs to keep Bolton in charge, Farage told The Telegraph, throwing his support behind the party’s under-pressure leader ahead of a party meeting on his future on Saturday.
Bolton has faced intense pressure to quit over his relationship with model Jo Marney, who was revealed to have sent racist text messages. More than half his top team quit in an effort to force him to resign, but he refused – instead pledging to remain as leader and implement sweeping changes to UKIP’s constitution.
Marney sent racist text messages about Prince Harry’s fiancé, Meghan Markle. The texts said Markle would “taint” the Royal Family and had a “tiny brain.” Marney also described Markle as a “negro” and said black people are ugly.
On Saturday, Bolton will appear before an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of UKIP activists in Birmingham.
At the meeting, party members will decide whether to either back or reject the UKIP National Executive Committee’s vote of no confidence in Bolton, which took place in December.
Farage, wh0 was UKIP leader from 2006 to 2009 and 2010 to 2016, has urged the party membership to throw its weight behind Bolton.
“I believe it would be better to allow Henry Bolton, with all his faults, the chance to turn Ukip into an electoral machine again,” Farage said. “The alternative is for the party to carry on down the path of self-destruction into irrelevance.”
The dispute comes while UKIP is in a precarious position. The anti-EU party’s public support has plummeted since the 2016 Brexit referendum which it campaigned for, and it is losing around 1,000 members a month.
Multiple leaders have come and gone in that time; if Bolton is ousted, the party will be in search of its seventh leader within two years.
The party is also in the midst of financial crisis. A judge ruled on Thursday that the party must contribute towards legal fees totalling £660,000 after one of its MEPs was found guilty of defamation. The Guardian estimates UKIP will be forced to pay at least £200,000.
Last month, UKIP treasurer John Bickley admitted that the party had been “living hand to mouth since 2015.” Bolton is yet to be paid for his role as leader and the party has made a number of cutbacks across its operations.
The party’s former head of communications, Gawain Towler, was asked to take a significant pay cut before he quit earlier this month after 13 years in the role, a UKIP source told Business Insider.
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