LONDON (AP) — The U.K. Independence Party, which played a key role in Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, was in disarray Monday as its leader resisted demands to quit amid a scandal over his personal life.
A defiant Henry Bolton said he wouldn’t step down, even after UKIP’s executive backed a no-confidence motion and several members of the party’s top team resigned to protest his leadership.
“I shall not be resigning as party leader,” Bolton said, adding that he planned to reform UKIP’s constitution and “put an end to the factional in-fighting within the party.”
He said the UKIP executive had lost the confidence of many party members, and “it is time to drain the swamp.”
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Bolton, 54, has faced growing pressure to resign since a newspaper published racist text messages sent by his girlfriend, 25-year-old model Jo Marney.
Bolton has said he ended “the romantic side” of his relationship with Marney after the Mail on Sunday newspaper published text messages to a friend in which she called black people “ugly” and said Prince Harry’s fiancee Meghan Markle would “taint” the royal family.
Parker, the former deputy leader, said Bolton’s personal life was overshadowing his job.
“It would be quicker and cleaner if he came to the conclusion he could go sooner rather than later,” she told the BBC.
Party members are due to decide Bolton’s fate at a meeting next month.
Under former leader Nigel Farage, the right-wing euroskeptic party was a major force behind Brexit. But it has struggled to maintain its prominence. It failed to win any seats in Parliament during last year’s election, and Bolton is its fourth leader since the June 2016 EU referendum.
Some UKIP members have suggested Farage, who led the party between 2010 and 2016, could return to the helm. Since the Brexit referendum, Farage has built up his international profile as the most prominent British supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump.