Public mudslinging, legal threats, George Soros conspiracies, a leader sacked and an Islamophobe installed: UKIP’s Extraordinary General Meeting was everything you’d expect from a dying party.
So, it is done.
Leader Henry Bolton was canned at UKIP’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) yesterday after just four months at the helm, scuppered by his poor choice of extra-marital partners, the party’s haemorrhaging support, crippled finances and very public loss of most of his colleagues’ confidence.
Batten would seem to be UKIP’s funeral director, inheriting a party on the brink of ruin and bringing along his own extreme baggage.
The EGM, UKIP’s first in 18 years, was triggered after the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) took a vote of no confidence against Bolton, after he had left his wife for Jo Marney, a party member less than half his age.
Marney was outed by the media for her numerous racist comments against Prince Harry’s new fiancée Meghan Markle, and other figures.
The sense of crisis was palpable at the meeting, which quickly became an all-out war between Bolton – who’d refused to go – and the NEC. What the 1,500 attendees witnessed was a mixture of the ugly, comedic and surreal.
By the end of it, the party’s leader Chairman Paul Oakden, and leading NEC figure Steve Crowther had all left their posts, and UKIP has been left staring down the barrel of financial ruin.
The meeting, which featured speeches from Bolton and his supporters and representatives of the NEC, was from the offset a brutal mudslinging match.
Steve Crowther, NEC member and former UKIP Chairman, tore into Bolton for his poor judgement in dealing with the Marney affair, attacking him for his treatment of his wife and children. Crowther also criticised Bolton for apparently lying on his CV.
Astonishingly NEC member Paul Oakley accused Bolton of having threatened legal action against his own party on two separate occasions.
Bolton quickly went on the offensive, outlining his plans to reform UKIP’s party structure and strip the NEC of power. His anti-NEC rhetoric was increasingly extreme: at one point he described the NEC as “the enemy within”. He even threatened the NEC with “action”, leading to boos from the crowd and a heckler having to be removed from the room.
The meeting took a turn towards the surreal during the two-minute speeches from six randomly-selected party members.
An anti-Bolton speaker drew boos when he compared Bolton’s plans to renovate the party to Vladmir Putin.
One impassioned (if confused) pro-Bolton speaker ripped up a €5 note and began shouting about George Soros.
Bizarrely another Bolton supporter informed the crowd of the large age difference between himself and his two ex-wives, and stated that that his third (and current) wife was “much, much, much younger”.
He went on to claim that he had been ostracised from Conservative circles after his second wife (identified as “feisty” and “feminist”) turned up to a meeting in a “see-through cat suit”.
You have to say Paul Oakden, the outgoing party Chairman, was wise in barring the press from attending.
Bolton has stated that he would “be looking at various legal options in relation to a number of things that have arisen during the last few weeks.”
Despite this – and, of course 63% of the EGM attendees voting to dump him – he also refused to rule out running for leadership again. After all, he has lost more or less everything else now (except, it appears, Jo Marney).
The penniless party can scarcely afford another leadership election, having been ordered to share a £670,000 libel bill after Jane Collins MEP was successfully sued for defamation by three Labour MPs that she had accused of ignoring child sexual abuse in Rotherham.
While party figures such as David Kurten and Bill Etheridge were in attendance, most notable were the absences from the EGM. Nigel Farage, who publicly backed Bolton, missed the meeting.
This has only added further fuel to suspicions that he will be returning to UK politics under another umbrella. Farage is due to appear on BBC’s Question Time on Wednesday.