Racist Messages About Meghan Markle Prompts No-Confidence Vote In UKIP Leader Henry Bolton

The scandal may force a new leadership election in the pro-Brexit political party.

Jordan StraussInvision/AP Images

The 14-member executive committee of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) today unanimously approved a vote of no confidence in its current leader Henry Bolton. Bolton got into hot water after racist text and/or Facebook messages sent by his new girlfriend Jo Marney about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s bride to be, surfaced in the media.

Today’s vote triggers an emergency general meeting of the pro-Brexit party, where it will decide if a new leadership election will take place. There have been reports that UKIP is practically broke and can’t afford a new contest for the head of the party, however. If Henry Bolton goes one way or another, the party would be faced with its fifth leadership election in about two years, with Bolton having been just elected in September 2017. Technically, the vote was not unanimous in that Bolton, alone, voted against the motion.

Condemning her racist messages, Bolton, 54, has said that the romantic aspect of his relationship with former model Marney, 25, which he asserted began on December 15, is over, but has consistently refused to step down from his UKIP role because it will destabilize the party. The former military officer and policeman is separated from his wife, who lives in Austria with their two young children. Marney has since apologized for the messages, but she has reportedly been kicked out of UKIP.

Parenthetically, while Bolton has been subject to much criticism from the UKIP faithful (and ridicule from those outside UKIP), there also has been consistent criticism, in general, about how the executive committee goes about its business.

In a statement, the committee explained that “The party is required to hold such an EGM within 28 days of today’s date unless Henry Bolton resigns in the meantime,” the Independent reported.

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Meghan Markle, 36, the Los Angeles-born Suits actress, is scheduled to exchange vows with Prince Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne in the British 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. UKIP, which received four million votes in the 2015 national election and appeared to be on the rise, 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, UKIP traditionally appeals to disaffected Labor voters on the center-left and Conservatives on the center-right, although 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. UKIP holds no seats in the British parliament, the House of Commons, and has suffered many losses in local elections in the last few years, along with rank-and-file members quitting the party. Because of the U.K.’s somewhat convoluted electoral process, it is challenging for a third party to gain traction even under the best of circumstances.

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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. There are rumors that Farage is considering starting a new populist party, or a UKIP 2.0, if UKIP as currently constituted can’t be salvaged, because of the importance of making sure Britain leaves the European Union under favorable terms, Bloomberg Politics detailed.

“Farage is dismayed that UKIP, which long opposed Britain’s membership in the EU, has been riven by internal politics and scandal in the 18 months since he resigned as leader, the Sunday Times said, citing unnamed people close to Farage. The paper quoted a person close to him as saying that Farage would ‘head back to the front line’ if there was a chance of Brexit not being delivered.”

Given that Henry Bolton only narrowly won the UKIP leadership contest in a multi-candidate field, the consensus seems to be that his career as the party’s frontman is rapidly coming to a close as a result of the controversy connected to the Meghan Markle-related racist messages.