Ukip’s suspension of its general secretary “following allegations of impropriety” has seen the party descend into a sexual harassment scandal.
The claims involve one of Nigel Farage’s most prominent female prodigies, the potential parliamentary candidate Natasha Bolter. She told The Times newspaper that Roger Bird twice propositioned her for sex and said that he could advance her career in return.
In a statement, the party said it had acted “swiftly and decisively” in suspending Bird pending an investigation – but the allegations will come as a major blow to the Eurosceptic party which has been working hard to deal with what Mr Farage himself admitted is a women problem.
This is not the first alleged sexual harassment scandal to involve the party. In July last year a report revealed claims that a female activist had been assaulted, spat on and called a “whore” after her drink was spiked at a Ukip gala dinner.
That report was produced by the then-general secretary Michael Greaves, who said that “for what it’s worth something may have happened to her”. The unnamed activist did not take her allegations beyond a complaint to the Ukip director Lisa Duffy for fear of creating “a scandal for everyone who works so hard in Ukip”.
Two months ago the former Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom quit the party on the grounds that it was becoming too “politically correct”.
Ukip gaffes and controversies
Ukip gaffes and controversies
1/18 European elections poster
Party's latest EU election posters branded 'racist' and compared to BNP campaigns
2/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Ukip spin doctor forced to intervene as Farage falters in disastrous radio interview
3/18 Neil Hamilton
Picture Exclusive: The year is 1998. The venue is a Springbok Club meeting. The flag is a symbol for white supremacists in South Africa. And the speaker is Ukip’s deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton
4/18 Kerry Smith
Kerry Smith resigned as would-be MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock after it emerged he had mocked gay party members as “disgusting poofters”, joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a “peasant hunt” and referred to someone with a Chinese name as a “Chinky bird”
5/18 Natasha Bolter
Former Ukip member Natasha Bolter was suspected of not having the teaching qualifications she professed to, only days after it was revealed that claims of her having attended Oxford University were also false
6/18 Ukip Calypso song
Mike Reid released a single in praise of UKIP trying to control the UK's borders, only to withdraw the single after being accused of racism for singing in a Jamaican accent
7/18 Janice Atkinson
Janice Atkinson, Ukip's South East chair, pictured by protesters while campaigning in Ashford, Kent with local party chair Norman Taylor
8/18 Ukip cancels Freephone
Ukip cancels Freephone number after protesters repeatedly called to push up costs
9/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Mr Farage appeared to be caught out on a number of issues, from Romanian neighbours to people speaking foreign languages on the train
10/18 Ukip employs illegal immigrants
Ukip criticised after European election candidate found employing illegal immigrants
11/18 Magnus Nielsen
Ukip candidate: 'Take away the right to vote to improve election turnout'
12/18 Poster model
A “British builder” portrayed in a Ukip poster accusing EU workers of taking UK jobs turns out to be an Irish actor - aka a migrant worker
13/18 'Arrest protesters'
Ukip called for police to arrest protesters ‘who call us fascists’ ahead of showdown with anti-fascist groups in Brighton
14/18 London Live make-up
Ukip's Nigel Farage reportedly refused to go on London Live 'without professional make up-artist'
15/18 Andre Lampitt
Ukip forced to suspend the "poster boy" of its European election broadcast, after it was revealed he had posted a series of vile racist comments on Twitter
Nigel Farage says he is taking taking legal advice over “outrageous” allegations that he is responsible for more than £50,000 of “missing” EU funding that was paid directly into his personal bank account
17/18 Have I Got News For You
Nigel Farage appears in Have I Got News For You, spends the entire episode being ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
18/18 Anti-gay comments
Local branch chairman for Ukip defends a party's councillor candidate Douglas Denny who called gay people “abnormal” and said he wished “they stop trying to ram it down my throat”, all while discussing whether the word “sodomite” should be used
Bloom provoked national outrage in 2013 when he called female Ukip supports “sluts” at a conference, and when he was appointed to the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee told journalists: “No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.”
In October Mr Farage admitted that the party does have a women problem in terms of its appeal to voters, saying that Ukip could at times come across as a bit “blokeish”.
But he then followed that up by making his own apparently sexist comment, saying: “What do you want me to do? Go sell flowers?”
It ultimately all adds up to a major issue for the party when it comes to the polls. Evidence from one poll ahead of the Heywood and Middleton by-election early in October suggested Ukip was ahead of Labour by 41 per cent to 38 per cent among male voters, but trailing with only 21 per cent support among women. Labour ultimately took the seat.Reuse content