Tomorrow the National Executive Committee of UKIP meets to discuss what to do about the party leader, Henry Bolton, whose personal affairs have been on national and social media relentlessly for the past three weeks. Unilaterally Bolton has brought to party into crisis with officers resigning and members apparently leaving in droves, yet he adamantly refuses to fall on his sword.
My article below was first published three days ago on Kipper Central:
Most UKIP members were willing to give Henry Bolton a chance.
He was the unknown and surprise victor in the party leadership election last September. He had come from nowhere, had few political policies and had campaigned almost entirely on his military and police track record and his own character. “Trust me, I will serve to lead,” he said regularly in hustings, quoting the motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
He may have the charisma of Herman van Rompuy and the appearance of a bank manager but could he be the person to stabilise and professionalise the troubled UKIP ship? Most were willing to give him time and space to show what he could deliver.
As autumn turned to winter and little seemed to be happening, anxious enquiries to his office were met with calm assurances from his staff that he was concentrating on internal party reorganisation. But come the new year, we were told, Henry would be out there doing the business, promoting new policies, setting the agenda and putting UKIP back on the political map.
The new year broke, and this week Henry was indeed interviewed for six minutes on the BBC’s national flagship prime-time agenda-setting Radio 4 programme ‘Today’. In political terms this was striking gold.
But for almost the entire interview Henry talked about himself, his marriage, his love life, his critics and his determination to continue in the job. It was all about Henry. He said nothing about the party, UKIP policies, the political situation or the all-important local elections in May.
It was an excruciating interview that resulted directly from a foolishness and selfishness that is worthy of a spotty hormonal teenage boy, not a mature and responsible adult man.
The whole sordid saga that includes betrayal, abandonment, racism and intimidation has been chronicled in detail – usually with salacious photos – by national and social media. Yet to date Henry has offered no apology, no expression of regret and definitely no recognition of how badly he has damaged the party.
And there is more.
On 6th January I published an article about how Henry had broken his word over pledges amongst other things.
This now seems prescient. Two days later on 8th January party chairman Paul Oakden wrote to all party members about NEC deliberations regarding “press coverage of our leader Henry Bolton”. The NEC had decided to discuss the matter at a special meeting ten days’ later and, Paul wrote, “No further comment will be made on this issue by the central party or any NEC member until that meeting has concluded.”
48 hours later, to the fury of other NEC members, Henry reneged on the agreement, broke the vow of silence and agreed to be interviewed by the political website Westmonster. He told them he would not be quitting and blamed “bitter opponents” for his troubles. None of it was his fault of course.
Clearly, for Henry, pledges, agreements and taking responsibility for his actions are like his women: to be dumped at will and as it suits his own selfish interests.
“I’ll serve to lead,” he had claimed, yet he neither serves UKIP’s interests nor shows leadership qualities of honesty and responsibility.
Last summer UKIP was in the doldrums: now, thanks to Henry, it is a dead man dying. So we need to bite the bullet and do the right thing. Cutting out a cancer is painful and costly, but the operation is necessary to try to restore the body’s health and former vigour.
And week is a long time in politics; who knows what new opportunities the coming months may offer the party? Tides turn, stuff happens, pollsters get it wrong and pundits make false predictions. Politics is unsettled and fluid today. Further, the country and Brexit still need UKIP.
In 1940, former cabinet minister Leo Amery castigated the inept Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for his incompetent conduct of the war. Speaking in the House of Commons, Amery repeated Oliver Cromwell’s 1653 rebuke for the corrupt and ineffectual Long Parliament: Amery told Chamberlain, “Depart, and let us have done with you. Go!”
Amery’s speech led to Chamberlain’s immediate resignation and the appointment of the formidable but wayward Winston Churchill in his place. The result, as they say, is history.
At its meeting on Sunday the NEC too should say the same to Henry Bolton: Depart, and let us have done with you. Go!
We certainly can do no worse than at present and we might, just might, do a whole lot better.