Ukip set for fresh leadership election after Henry Bolton ousted

Crisis-hit Ukip faces yet another leadership election after party members voted to oust Henry Bolton.

Mr Bolton, who was only elected in September 2017, was sacked after party members voted by 867 to 500 to express their lack of faith in his ability to lead the party.

London MEP Gerard Batten has stepped in as interim leader, promising to make Ukip a populist force and win back donors for the cash-strapped party.

Since Nigel Farage quit as leader in the wake of the European Union referendum result in July 2016, Ukip has elected Diane James, Paul Nuttall and Mr Bolton and seen them all depart.

Mr Bolton had already suffered a no confidence vote by the ruling national executive committee (NEC) and a revolt by several senior figures in the party in protest at his relationship with model Jo Marney.

Mr Bolton said he still has "strong affections" for his former girlfriend who sent offensive messages about Meghan Markle.

He revealed he had received a good luck text message from Ms Marney before the extraordinary general meeting - and also one from his estranged wife Tatiana Smurova.

Former soldier Mr Bolton said he feared Ukip would be "taken off the battlefield" of British politics for months as a result of the decision to oust him.

"I think it's going to be difficult to unite the party, what we have effectively had today is a rejection of a new draft constitution, a reorganisation and indeed a new way of doing politics," he said.

Asked if he was going to get back together with Ms Marney, he said: "I have said all along that once we got the EGM out of the way I would spend time sorting out my private life."

Mr Bolton said he was considering legal action as a result of the way the process to oust him was handled.

Ukip will face a fresh leadership election within 90 days after Mr Bolton lost the no confidence motion.

Interim leader Mr Batten issued a dismissive response to suggestions Mr Bolton could take legal action.

Ukip interim leader Gerard Batte
Ukip interim leader Gerard Batten (Joe Giddens/PA)

Asked what his message to Mr Bolton was he said: "Get on with the rest of your life."

Mr Batten, who did not rule out standing for the leadership on a permanent basis, said: "I feel optimistic that Ukip can and will grow stronger and more successful because ordinary patriotic people want, need and deserve a party that represents their interests.

"Ukip came into being because it filled a political vacuum. That vacuum still exists. I want Ukip to be a 'populist' party - popular because its policies are what people actually want."

That would include campaigning for an "end to the age of mass uncontrolled immigration".

Mr Batten, who once described Islam as a "death cult", said: "I have never made comments about Muslims, I have always talked about ideology and the literalist interpretation of that ideology.

"That is a big problem that is facing not just the UK but Europe and the Western world."

Speculation is mounting that Mr Bolton's exit could pave the way for the return of Mr Farage.

Senior Ukip figure Suzanne Evans told the Press Association ahead of the vote that it was "crunch time" for the party and Mr Farage should again take the helm to clear up the "mess" he had left.

Speculation is mounting that Nigel Farage could return to lead Ukip
Speculation is mounting that Nigel Farage could return to lead Ukip (Brian Lawless/PA)

The cash-strapped party faces a separate series of challenges, including the prospect of a hefty legal bill over a defamation action brought by Rotherham's three Labour MPs against MEP Jane Collins.

Mr Batten said all parties had financial problems but the bill would not be an "insurmountable" problem and "once we get the show back on the road we will get the donors back".

Outgoing chairman Paul Oakden said the party would not "let Labour bully Ukip off the pitch".

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