LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of Britain’s eurosceptic UK Independence Party faced calls on Sunday to stand down after a newspaper published racist messages sent by his girlfriend about Prince Harry’s fiancee Meghan Markle.
Last year, Henry Bolton was the fourth leader in a year to be appointed to the helm of UKIP, a party which helped bring about a Brexit vote. He hit the tabloid newspapers over Christmas when they reported that he had left his wife for 25-year-old model and UKIP member Jo Marney.
The Mail on Sunday published a series of messages sent by Jo Marney to a friend in which she made offensive comments about Markle and black people. The newspaper also published an apology from Marney, who said her comments had been “taken out of context”.
UKIP’s Bill Etheridge, a member of the European Parliament, said: “The time has come for Henry Bolton to resign as leader of UKIP. He must go, he must go quickly, he must go as quietly as possible.”
“It appears to me that the lack of experience in politics from Henry has got the better of him,” he said in a video statement, describing the last few months as “hell” for the party.
Peter Whittle, UKIP’s member of the London Assembly, also criticized the remarks, saying they were “disgraceful”.
“This person should not just be suspended from @UKIP but expelled altogether,” he said on Twitter.
Led by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, UKIP won nearly 4 million votes in 2015, 12.6 percent of those cast, on its anti-European Union platform, putting it at the forefront of British politics even though it managed to win one seat in parliament.
But its fortunes have sunk since, hurt by internal fights over its future direction. At last year’s election in June, UKIP won 1.8 of the vote.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Louise Heavens