An outspoken UKIP MEP is being pushed forward as the potential new leader of the troubled party, despite facing accusations of being anti-Muslim after calling Islam a ‘death cult.’
Senior UKIP figures are reportedly backing Gerard Batten to replace Henry Bolton, following revelations involving his private life that look likely to spell the end of his brief stint as leader.
Bolton’s relationship with former glamour model Jo Marney, which came to light two days after he left his wife and two children, was criticised after the 25-year-old woman’s racist text messages about people including Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle were leaked.
Bolton, who continues to meet with Marney “as friends,” has consistently declined to rule out rekindling the romance, angering party members. Jo Marney denies being a racist.
Henry Bolton faces a vote of no confidence at an emergency general meeting in Birmingham this weekend. If he loses, the National Executive Committee (NEC) has a 14-day window in which to make a decision on a new leader.
Former UKIP leader Lord Pearson told the Telegraph a decision should be made quickly.
He said: “If it was a normal corporate business and we were dismissing the chief executive, the shareholders would want to know who was stepping in pretty damn quickly.”
UKIP heavyweights Bill Etheridge and Ben Walker are backing Batten, who is now warning that the continuation of Bolton’s premiership will end the party completely.
Moreover, three UKIP peers — Lords Pearson, Stevens and Willoughby de Broke — wrote to the party’s NEC this morning, putting their weight behind the MEP.
“We now write to suggest that, ahead of the EGM on 17th February, you resolve to immediately appoint Gerard Batten MEP as Interim Leader in the event that Henry Bolton loses the vote at the EGM,” they wrote, according to the Guido Fawkes website.
“Further, we suggest that you publicly announce ahead of the EGM that it is your intention to appoint Gerard in the event that Henry Bolton loses, so that UKIP members will know as they vote that you have a plan of action around the party leadership and that there will not be any demoralising vacuum at the top.”
The support for Batten comes despite his facing allegations of Islamophobia, having previously sparked controversy by saying British Muslims should sign a code of conduct, while also describing Islam as “Mohammedanism” and a “death cult.”
Party treasurer and NEC member John Bickley said: “Most Kippers want Gerard Batten to be interim leader. He’s a safe pair of hands and the party’s Brexit guru. Many of the colleagues I work with and I would support him.”
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