The leader of Britain’s UKIP party has said he is ending his relationship with his girlfriend over a series of racist comments she made about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle.
However, Henry Bolton says he has no intention of standing down from his post “for the good of the party”.
Jo Marney, his 25-year-old now ex-girlfriend, was suspended from the party over the weekend after a Sunday newspaper published printed texts it said had been sent by Marney.
She is said to have apologised for the messages – sent to a friend three weeks before she began her relationship with Bolton – which used the word “negro”, described black people as “ugly”, said that Markle would “taint” the royal family and that “this is Britain, not Africa”.
“I don’t defend these comments whatsoever,” Bolton told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme. “As of last night, the romantic side of our relationship is ended.”
He has since elaborated in other interviews, saying he had had no idea about the existence of the "indefensible" texts, and that Marney had never expressed such views in his company.
The party’s chairman, Paul Oakden, said on Sunday that Marney’s party membership was being suspended immediately after the comments were reported in the Mail on Sunday. “UKIP does not, has not and never will condone racism,” the paper quoted him as saying.
Henry Bolton, 54, is UKIP’s fourth leader in just over a year, after its former chief Nigel Farage stood down in the wake of the EU referendum in the summer of 2016. His relationship with Marney was under investigation by the party after he left his wife for the model late last year.
Under Farage, the UK Independence Party played a significant role in building support for the country’s departure from the European Union, culminating in the successful 2016 referendum. However, backing at the polls has since plummeted, and its level of support is estimated in the low single figures.