Here we go again …
In March last year I was moved to write this post concerning UKIPs previous leader. Paul Nuttall hung on until after the 2017 General Election, when UKIPs disastrous showing made his resignation inevitable. But really Nuttall’s leadership became untenable when he was exposed as a serial fantasist (or at least compulsive liar) with a string of false claims about his past including having been a professional footballer and having a PhD in History. This both called his character into question, and made him the story.
Ten months later, here we are again. Henry Bolton has been in the news, first for leaving his wife and two young children and taking up with 25 year old UKIP activist Jo Marney, and secondly for her racist text messages about Meghan Markle revealed in the Mail on Sunday.
The perfectly valid point that it is monstrous for the private communications of a person who is not themselves in the public eye to be made public and used to denounce them and discredit those associated with them has be well made by Spiked Online and I will not repeat it.
The issue here is not that Bolton should go because of his private life, nor because he is somehow responsible for text messages sent by his (now ex-) girlfriend before he met her. It is the appalling lack of judgement evidenced by these episodes. Bolton has become the story and can never now have a hope of presenting UKIP in a positive light.
As it happens I generally hold the we anglo-saxons should be rather less censorious about politicians private lives. This is one area where a more french attitude would be appropriate. People marry, people get divorced, people marry again. It is their private business, and not normally of public interest or political relevance.
Why is this different? Because it indicates a man who is impulsive, of poor judgement, and unable to deal with the pressures he would inevitably face as the leader of UKIP.
Henry Bolton was entirely unknown until he stood for the UKIP leadership. Suddenly, he finds himself leader of a national political party and being interviewed regularly on the nation’s top current affairs programs – a role in which he acquitted himself fairly well given his lack of experience. Was he not aware, or had no one warned him, that there is a certain kind of young woman who is drawn to older men with status and influence? (An affinity that is not necessarily mercenary, though it may be. Some women are genuinely attracted by the trappings of power). Apparently no one had.
Within a few weeks of meeting Jo Marney at a UKIP Christmas party, Bolton had abandoned his family’s Christmas Eve celebrations in Austria and flown back to the UK to take up with the 25-year old model. Early suggestions that Bolton was already estranged from his wife when he met Marney appear to be inaccurate.
Maybe Marney was not the first young activist to take an interest in the 54-year old leader since his election in September this year. But she could hardly have been a less suitable partner for a UKIP leader. If – to put the best possible interpretation on events – you are inclined to troll friends with outrageous racist opinions you don’t really hold – surely anyone with a half a brain would know not to put them in writing? Surely everyone in this day and age knows that not only social media but emails and text messages come back to haunt you? That a man in a sensitive political role would take up with a new partner exhibiting such poor judgement at such short notice reflects very poorly on his own judgement.
UKIP has had some success defending the position that wanting to control immigration isn’t racist. That wanting to accord some rights to your own citizens that you don’t accord to non-citizens isn’t racist. That failing to invite every self-proclaimed refugee in the world into your country isn’t racist. That wanting to be governed by your own elected politicians rather than foreign bureaucrats isn’t racist. The last thing we need in fighting that battle is UKIP members saying stuff – even in private – even in jest if that is what is was – that genuinely is racist. That is why UKIP takes such a strong line on racism and anyone who does not understand that has no place in UKIP, and certainly no place within 100 miles of the leader.
The picture is of a man who is unable to resist the temptations that a role in national UK politics may bring with it, and is simultaneously unable to understand the effect that giving in to them will have on his reputation and by association that of his party. He has to go.
Whether there is a future for UKIP after the implosion of its fourth leader in 18 months remains to be seen. There is certainly no future with him at the helm.
21 January 2018
Henry Bolton unanimously lost a vote of no confidence from the UKIP NEC. Since then the following UKIP spokespersons have resigned:
- Star Anderton (Equalities and disabilities)
- Bill Etheridge MEP (Sports)
- Margot Parker MEP (Deputy leader)
- John Bickley (Immigration)
- Mike Hookem MEP (Fisheries and veterans affairs)
- Tim Aker MEP (Local government)
- William Dartmouth (Trade)
- David Kurten AM (Education)
- David Meacock (Culture)
- Peter Whittle AM (London)
- David Sprason (Work and pensions)
Other senior figures have left the party:
- Jonathan Arnott MEP
- Susie Govett (Bolton’s leadership campaign press aide)
25 January 2018
This evening I attended a meeting of the Hereford and South Herefordshire UKIP branch and we discussed the leadership situation.
The meeting unanimously agreed a vote of no confidence in Henry Bolton, and asked the branch chairman to write to the party chairman and the leader to ask that he stand down immediately and avoid a divisive EGM.