Many a politician has thrown away a promising career through an extra-marital affair with a model. Few can claim to have thrown away an entire political party because of one, as Henry Bolton is on the verge of being able to do. In what is widely being seen as the death knell of the party, all 17 UKIP members of the Thurrock Council have defected en masse to form a new party, the Thurrock Independents, in the run up to the May local elections. Bolton’s relentless pursuit of an affair with model Jo Marney is one of the root causes for the recent exodus.
Independence from the UK Independence Party
The surprise move by the Thurrock councillors was announced earlier today after a tumultuous week of infighting within the pro-Brexit party. Former UKIP councillor, and now Group Leader of Thurrock Independents, Graham Snell, said:
“Our entire group joined Thurrock Independents as we have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics. Our councillors have won widespread admiration for their hard work even from residents across the political spectrum.
“We hope that these admirers will now be able to support Thurrock Independents. Our logo represents the ethos of our party; hard graft, working together towards common goals, sacrifice and the importance of the protection of our environment.”
It is a huge blow for Henry Bolton’s faltering leadership of a party which was until recently had been causing panic in the ranks of Tories and Labour alike. In a tweet, former Nigel Farrage aide Michael Heaver said, “Devastating – this branch was jewel in the crown of the party”
While the mass exodus may have been a surprise to politics watchers, the political calculus behind the move was immediately obvious. BBC Essex political reporter Charlotte Rose said: “With local elections just three months away, it seems clear that they believe the party is facing electoral defeat – and that this move is a way to try and stem the losses at a local level.”
The reasons for UKIP’s slide into irrelevance are complicated, but no one doubts that the slide has been accelerated by Henry Bolton’s on-again-off-again liaison with Ms Marney.
— Jo Marney (@Jo_Marney) January 3, 2018
Henry Bolton’s Wandering Eye
In four months of leadership, UKIP party leader Henry Bolton struggled to get his increasingly irrelevant party into the news headlines. That all changed when, just after Christmas, he decided to pursue an extra-marital affair with “presenter, music journalist, model, actor and Brexiteer” Jo Marney.
It was not Marney’s blonde tresses that made headlines, however. It was reports of racist texts, critical of Prince Harry’s mixed-race fiancée Meghan Markle. Queue scandal, outrage, and pressure from UKIP dignitaries for Bolton to quickly drop Marney. He complied, and briefly things seemed to improve.
A few days later Bolton and Marney were spotted late at night headed home together on the London Underground. UKIP’s ruling committee passed a unanimous measure of no-confidence in Henry Bolton, followed quickly by a string of front bench resignations, and public criticism of UKIP eminence grise Nigel Farage.
But still Henry Bolton has refused to resign. And he says he will “continue to support the family of Jo Marney” who he describes as “distraught” by recent events. Marney herself has predicted a leadership contest will end the party (possibly referring to UKIP’s parlous bank balance – it simply cannot afford it). Perhaps Bolton will be able to cling on. But the question is, if Henry Bolton remains leader, will there be a UKIP for him to lead for much longer?
— Jo Marney (@Jo_Marney) January 24, 2018