LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom Independence Party, which transformed British politics by securing a referendum on EU membership, was close to meltdown on Monday over the fate of its leader whose lover made racist comments about Prince Harry’s fiancee Meghan Markle.
Under Nigel Farage, UKIP became a significant force in British politics by convincing former Prime Minister David Cameron to call a national vote and then campaigning successfully for Britain to leave the bloc.
But since Farage quit after Brexiteers won the referendum, UKIP has descended into chaos, partly as its main objective - severing direct ties with the EU - is now the official policy of both the Conservative and Labour parties.
Farage, a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump who has lambasted traditional politicians for failing voters, dismissed speculation that he may be plotting to create a new political party to ensure a full break with the EU.
“No thoughts of a new party whatever some may speculate,” Farage told Reuters. Asked if he would return to frontline politics, he said: “Doubt it.”
Farage declined to comment on the confusion inside UKIP, where leader Henry Bolton has refused to resign since his 25-year-old lover, Jo Marney, made offensive comments about Markle and black people in text messages to a friend.
Marney who began dating Bolton just after Christmas, described U.S. actress Markle, whose father is white and mother is African-American, as a “dumb little commoner” and said “her seed with (sic) taint our royal family”, according to the texts printed in a Sunday newspaper.
Marney also described black people as ugly. She later apologized for the text messages and Bolton said they were ending the “romantic element” of their relationship.
Without the charisma of Farage, a former metals trader who charmed the media, UKIP has suffered.
His first successor, Diane James, resigned after just 18 days and her successor, Paul Nuttall, quit after UKIP won 1.8 percent of votes cast in last June’s national election.
Bolton lost a vote of confidence from the party’s national executive committee on Sunday but he insisted that he would not step down. He has said the texts from his lover about Markle were “abhorrent, unwise and offensive.”
UKIP’s deputy leader, Margot Parker, resigned in protest at Bolton’s refusal to go, the BBC reported.
Led by Farage, UKIP won nearly four million votes - 12.6 percent of those cast - in the previous national election in 2015 on its anti-EU platform, projecting it to the forefront of British politics even though it only managed to win one seat in parliament.
Its popularity prompted Cameron, who once dismissed the party as being full of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, to hold the referendum and played a major role in securing the vote to leave the EU.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden and John Stonestreet