Racist Messages About Meghan Markle Prompts U.K. Political Leader To Break Up With Girlfriend

Under pressure, UKIP leader is apparently trying to save his job.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images

Henry Bolton, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), revealed today in a series of media interviews that he has split from his girlfriend over racist text messages that she reportedly sent to a friend about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s bride to be. Bolton, 54, said that the romantic aspect of his relationship with Jo Marney, 25, which he asserted began on December 15, is over.

Bolton is separated from his wife, who lives in Austria with their two children, but the couple is not yet legally separated. The former soldier and police officer also indicated that he has no plans to resign from his political leadership position, although there are calls for him to step down. The UKIP executive committee is meeting in the coming days to discuss Bolton’s status with the party, however. Bolton apparently was already on thin ice in the party for leaving his wife for the younger woman.

The UKIP leader, for now, says he was unaware of the “indefensible” racist messages when he began dating Jo Marney and claimed that the texts don’t actually represent Marney’s core beliefs. He added the Marney, a former model, is devastated that they become public, the Guido Fawkes website reported. The website also noted that party leaders gave Bolton an implied ultimatum to choose between UKIP and Marney.

Henry Bolton also insisted that the attacks on Marney serve as a proxy for criticism of his UKIP stewardship, but noted that “the job has got to take first place.”

UKIP quickly suspended Marney after the text messages emerged. Jo Marney has apologized for the “shocking language,” claiming that she had no intention of offending anyone and that her remarks were taken out of context, the Daily Mail reported.

Meghan Markle, 36, the Los Angeles-born Suits actress, is scheduled to exchange vows with Prince Harry, who is fifth in line to the British throne in the royal family, in May.

UKIP has fallen on hard times since its charismatic leader Nigel Farage stepped down after the Brexit referendum and intra-party volatility followed. For example, Farage’s initial successor Diane James quit after just 18 days. If Bolton goes, the party would be faced with its fifth leadership election in about two years. UKIP, which received four million votes in the 2015 national election, saw its vote total drop to just 600,000 in the 2017 snap election, after which then-leader Paul Nuttall resigned. While described by some media outlets as a right-wing party, the pro-Brexit UKIP traditionally appeals to disaffected Labor voters on the center-left and Conservatives on the center-right, although, as alluded to above, UKIP has lost a significant amount of its market share at the national and local levels. Several high-profile UKIP elected officials, such as Steven Woolfe, have switched parties or gone independent in the past few years amidst various controversies.

Considered the architect of Brexit, Nigel Farage is still a member of the European Parliament as well as a radio talk show host and political pundit on both U.K. and American television. He recently made headlines by suggesting that a second Brexit vote might be a good idea but has since walked that back, explaining that Brexiteers nonetheless need to prepare for that eventually if the pro-remain cohort gets its way.

It remains to be seen if Henry Bolton will still be UKIP leader by this time next week in the aftermath of the Jo Marney scandal over the racist text messages about Meghan Markle.