Henry Bolton elected new leader of UK Independence Party
Bookies’ favourite was Dublin-born Anne Marie Waters
New UKIP leader Henry Bolton. Photograph: Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Henry Bolton has been elected as the new leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party.
The party announced its new leader on Friday afternoon after a bitter contest that threatened to tear the party apart.
The little-known candidate beat the two front runners in the contest - anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters and London Assembly member Peter Whittle - to win with 3,874 votes.
“Brexit is our core task, however, it is not the end of the line,” he told the party members.
The bookies’ favourite was Dublin-born Ms Waters.
Mr Bolton called on the party to unite behind him to allow him to deliver its aims. He said: “I do not see myself now as simply being your leader, I see myself as serving this party. “You are the party, not me, and this party needs to serve its country. “There is no greater calling than that and I would call on all of you, whether you voted for me or not, to rally around the party, to be united.”
A former soldier and then police officer, Mr Bolton later worked for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other international organisations in places including Kosovo and Macedonia.
While occasionally talking about Islam as a “problem” at hustings, much of his pitch was based on his promised ability to put Ukip on a more professional footing, and unify the various factions that have battled each other for years.
This task could be complicated by a couple of issues, one of which is his lack of obvious charisma. “Henry is very organised but you can’t exactly see him wowing everyone on the Daily Politics,” said one senior party figure.
Another potential issue is that a party that likes to style itself as the insurgent upstart has selected the most establishment leader it could. Another Ukip figure said: “There’s lots of people in Ukip who like to say we challenge the elites. Well, Henry’s background and MBE make him look like part of the elite.”
The leadership contest was triggered after Paul Nuttall resigned as leader following a disastrous general election for Ukip in June. The party saw its share of the vote fall to 1.8 per cent, from 12.6 per cent in 2015, with just over half a million people voting for Ukip, compared with almost four million two years earlier.
Mr Bolton has become the party’s fourth leader within a year, tasked with charting a new direction for the party in the post-Brexit world.
Ukip faces a struggle to find a new direction in the wake of Brexit and following the departure of its long-time leader and titular figure, Nigel Farage, to the US political talkshow circuit.
The party has also been riven by splits and disagreements, one of which resulted in MEP Steven Woolfe being hospitalised after a fight with another Ukip MEP.
Mr Farage said he was “delighted” Mr Bolton had won the leadership battle. “He is a man of real substance,” the former leader added.