UKIP ejects Henry Bolton: is the party finally over?
Interim leader Gerard Batten defends description of Islam as ‘death cult’
UKIP has sacked leader Henry Bolton following the controversy over racist comments made by his girlfriend, leaving the party facing its fifth leadership contest in two years amid speculation about whether it can survive this latest blow.
Bolton’s 142-day reign as party leader was widely viewed as a disaster. “Instead of professionalisation, his leadership has seen the party sink to new lows of infighting and humiliation,” says Sky News political correspondent Lewis Goodall.
UKIP is also facing a financial crisis, with reports that it is on the brink of bankruptcy, says The Sunday Times. According to the newspaper, the party has suffered a “sharp” downturn in its finances since 2015, when it won the third-highest share of votes in the general election, with 12.6%. Key donors including Arron Banks have withdrawn support.
Gerard Batten was appointed interim leader yesterday - the seventh person in the top spot since 2016 - following a no-confidence vote in Bolton over the weekend.
Batten “faced condemnation less than 24 hours after taking the helm”, the Daily Mail reports.
In an interview with Sky News, the London MEP said that he believes Islam is a “death cult” and that Muslims should sign a document renouncing parts of the Koran. “They believe in propagating their religion by killing other people and martyring themselves and going and getting their 72 virgins,” Batten said.
Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate said that in choosing Batten to hold the reins, UKIP members had sounded “the death knell for their party”, HuffPost UK reports.
UKIP is expected to organise another leadership campaign within 90 days. Meanwhile, Batten’s leadership risks “pushing the beleaguered party even further from the mainstream”, The Guardian says.
The question remains whether he will push it over the edge.