back to top
Politics

This Is How UKIP Is Imploding In Fun And Innovative Ways

Henry Bolton is having the year from hell.

Posted on

Meet Henry Bolton: a former soldier, a former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, and UKIP's current leader.

Jack Taylor / Getty Images

Bolton was elected UKIP leader in September 2017, despite barely anyone knowing who he was. In the process he became the pro-Brexit political party's fifth leader in little more than a year, succeeding Steve Crowther, Paul Nuttall, Nigel Farage, Diane James, and Nigel Farage.

Party officials breathed a sigh of relief at his election, as he was seen as a safe pair of hands by virtue of being completely unknown. His victory also ensured that rival candidates – including far-right anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters and John Rees-Evans, who once accused a gay donkey of raping his horse – did not take control of the party.

Farage celebrated Bolton's win as a victory for those who wanted to kick "racists" out of UKIP. More on that later.

Bolton took the job despite not having a job to pay for it.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

The UKIP leadership position is unpaid, since the party is largely skint and operating with a skeleton staff on reduced hours. Previous UKIP leaders have generally been MEPs, enabling them to take home an EU-funded salary while campaigning against the EU.

Bolton admitted in his initial press conference that he might have to sell his house to fund his dream of being UKIP leader. More on that later.

For the first few months Bolton avoided attracting too much controversy, although he managed to make headlines when he insisted he could kill a badger with his bare hands.

The Times

Reader warning: This is a bad idea, since you don't want to get in a melee with a Meles meles.

Meanwhile, the party's poll ratings continued to tank and former leader Farage went around suggesting UKIP had served its purpose and – eventually – floating the idea of a second EU referendum.

After three months in the job, Bolton finally achieved his dream of achieving a public profile. Unfortunately for the married party leader, this happened when he was outed on the front page of the Sun for starting a new relationship with a glamour model and party supporter.

The Sun

The newspaper described how Bolton answered the door at Marney's family home "wearing slippers" and confirmed his new relationship before heading out of the house with Marney and "walking into woods arm-in-arm".

Advertisement

Bolton attempted to head off criticism by contacting party members in advance of publication, to warn of a forthcoming malicious story, while insisting he had already split up with his wife before beginning the new relationship.

Fantastic Xmas dinner with our leader @_henrybolton 🎄#ukip

Bolton's wife, Tatiana Smurova-Bolton, disagreed and said she was dumped on Christmas Eve and told of the new relationship by text on 30 December, even though she was still breastfeeding their youngest child.

UKIP politicians traditionally fight like rats in a sack. Except this time the sack was on a sinking ship and the money had run out and no one had heard of the party leader.

Party officials began to demand Bolton apologise for allegedly overstating the strength of his marriage in order to win votes.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Liz Hazell, leader of the UKIP group on Walsall council, said she had been betrayed by the leader, who she believed stood for family values.

"You have entangled yourself with someone who would trade you in for Michael Fallon, Damian Green, Lembit Opik, Noel Gallagher’s third cousin, or Mick Jagger’s postman," she said.

Hazell also called for Bolton to be banned from Meghan Markle's wedding to Prince Harry. (It is not clear that Bolton was ever going to be invited to the royal wedding.)

UKIP chair Paul Oakden agreed to discuss the issue at a meeting of the party's ruling committee and pledged "to work collectively in finding a resolution that best protects the future prospects of UKIP".

Bolton insisted he was very much doing his best to work through some personal issues – but then people starting checking the social media accounts of his new partner.

There were stories about her holding a signed copy of a book by Enoch Powell, the infamous anti-immigrant British MP. There were questions about her Facebook posts, which variously called Grenfell Tower "a nest of illegal immigrants" and said nurses are "just posh cleaners".

Then things got worse: The Mail on Sunday published a series of texts Marney had written in the past, in which she which said she wouldn't sleep with a "negro" and complained about Meghan Markle's "seed" tainting the royal family.

From Mail on Sunday. Some of the comments that UKIP leader's girlfriend is said to have made about Meghan Markle… https://t.co/RuULMkKCcw

Marney also complained about the prospect of a Muslim prime minister and a black king.

She was immediately suspended from UKIP as a result of the story, despite her partner being nominally in charge. Marney later apologised in a statement, saying her comments had been taken out of context. She added: "I fully recognise the offence they have caused."

By this point it is highly likely that Henry Bolton will not be invited to the royal wedding.

Advertisement

Bolton faced a choice that many people face: between an unpaid job leading a struggling political party where everyone hates him and a life with a new girlfriend facing racism accusations on the front page of a national newspaper.

UKIP’s Henry Bolton discussing his love life on R4. “The romantic element of our relationship is over... Our first… https://t.co/wVeJps0EpA

He ended up choosing the job, before conducting an early-morning media round where he said he had ended the "romantic element" of the relationship with Marney but had not completely parted ways.

UKIP officials were briefing that he would face serious questions.

Bill Etheridge, an MEP who shot to fame after writing a book celebrating golliwogs, announced he had resigned as the party's sport spokesperson in protest at the developments.

(Admittedly some people were confused that UKIP had a sport spokesperson.)

@jimwaterson Th UKIP sport position has been consistent: a return to long shorts, proper leather balls (with laces… https://t.co/Obtb7DxUdm

In response, Bolton waded into the comments on Etheridge's Facebook page, insisting Etheridge could not resign since he had already been sacked at the perfectly normal time of 5:29 in the morning.

Advertisement

There was a brief lull mid-afternoon while it was revealed Bolton, who does not have a paying job, owes a substantial sum in service charges on his flat and is having to sell his home.

Ukip leader Henry Bolton owes £28,000 in service charges on his flat, and is having to sell the property to pay the… https://t.co/kVyna9hQBc

Meanwhile, UKIP's culture and arts spokesperson – who definitely exists – threatened to resign if Bolton didn't quit immediately.

David Meacock also suggested, in a lengthy and rambling statement, that UKIP should follow the precedent of the Olympic committee and appoint the runner-up of the September leadership contest as Bolton's replacement.

In measured language, he said Bolton faced a "Edward VIII moment" where he had to choose "his mistress or his crown".

Meanwhile, the Sun reported that Bolton allegedly sent messages warning of consequences for Marney's ex-boyfriend if any messages about Markle were leaked, though Bolton's aides say that in fact the messages he was trying to suppress contained sick jokes.

Excl: Ukip leader Henry Bolton tried to stop his shamed mistress’s sick rants from being exposed with menacing thre… https://t.co/f7SJX2Nnfh

For the moment Bolton clings on as leader, unpaid, having broken up with his girlfriend, having to sell his house, while working out of the UKIP office in a bid to save his career.

Instagram: @gawaintowler

Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the UKIP office is a Caffè Nero near parliament.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.