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Ukip is finished after electing Gerard Batten, but Nigel Farage is set to make a comeback

Public mudslinging, legal threats, George Soros conspiracies, a leader sacked and an Islamophobe installed: Ukip’s extraordinary general meeting was everything you’d expect from a dying party

Nick Lowles
Monday 19 February 2018 17:07 GMT
In England, 14 per cent of people view Farage as their natural choice of political leader
In England, 14 per cent of people view Farage as their natural choice of political leader (Getty)

In sacking Henry Bolton and choosing Gerard Batten as their new interim leader, Ukip members have sounded the death knell for their party.

A noted Islamophobe and conspiracy crank, who believes that Nazis created the “basic plan” for the EU, Ukip’s founder member and London MEP Batten inherits an organisation (for the next 90 days at least) that is in debt to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, lurching ever further to the right and into political irrelevancy.

The next leadership election will be Ukip’s fourth since the 2016 EU referendum, which was the high-water mark for the increasingly Islam-and-extremism-obsessed party, which has stumbled from crisis to crisis, most recently as a result of former leader Henry Bolton’s disastrous dalliance with Jo Marney, who sent racist messages about Meghan Markle.

The party is now a bad joke, haemorrhaging support and money. However, the bigger threat lies in Nigel Farage and his Leave EU backer Arron Banks, eagerly waiting in the wings. Farage and Banks are far more capable figures than anything Ukip is likely to offer and will hit home hard on anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim messages when they re-enter the political fray, most likely at the helm of a new radical-right political movement.

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten says 'extremist' mosques should be banned in Britain

So how did it come to this?

The sense of crisis was palpable at Ukip’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Saturday – its first in 18 years – which quickly became an all-out war between Bolton (who’d refused to go) and the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

The NEC took a vote of no confidence against Bolton after he’d left his wife for Marney, a party member less than half his age. Marney was outed by the media for her numerous racist comments against Prince Harry’s new fiancee Meghan Markle.

What the 1,500 EGM attendees witnessed was a mixture of the ugly, comedic and surreal.

By the end of it, the party’s leader, Chairman Paul Oakden and leading NEC figure Steve Crowther had all left their posts, and Ukip was staring down the barrel of financial ruin.

NEC member and former Ukip Chairman Steve Crowther tore into Bolton for his poor judgement in dealing with the Marney affair, attacking him for his treatment of his wife and children. Crowther also criticised Bolton for apparently lying on his CV.

Astonishingly NEC member Paul Oakley accused Bolton of having threatened legal action against his own party on two separate occasions.

Bolton quickly went on the offensive, outlining his plans to reform Ukip’s party structure and to strip the NEC of power. At one point he described the NEC as “the enemy within”. He even threatened the NEC with “action”, leading to boos from the crowd and a heckler having to be removed from the room.

One impassioned (if confused) pro-Bolton speaker ripped up a €5 note and began shouting about George Soros.

Bizarrely another Bolton supporter informed the crowd of the large age difference between himself and his two ex-wives, and stated that that his third (and current) wife was “much, much, much younger”. He went on to claim that he had been ostracised from Conservative circles after his second wife turned up to a meeting in a “see-through cat suit”.

You have to say Paul Oakden, the outgoing party Chairman, was wise in barring the press from attending.

In then choosing Batten to hold the helm, though, the party has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Batten believes Islam is a “death cult”, a view he reiterated over the weekend during press interviews as “factually and historically true”, insisting it should be referred to as “Mohammedanism”. His election is a disaster for any hope Ukip might have of resurrecting its political fortunes.

Batten spoke at the far-right Traditional Britain Group in 2011, which wants to deport non-white people from Britain and whose vice-president called Doreen Lawrence a “n****r” and broadcaster Vanessa Feltz a “fat Jewish s**g”, something we revealed as part of our new undercover film into the alt-right movement.

Batten also has links to anti-Muslim “counter-jihad” networks across Europe, showing support for the controversial far-right politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – who wants to ban the Qu’ran and halt mosque building – calling him “a brave man trying to defend western civilisation in the face of its own loss of the most basic instinct of self-preservation.”

In 2006 Batten called for British Muslims to sign a “Charter of Muslim Understanding” to reject violence, reiterating the claim in 2014. This weekend speaking to Sky News he said: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that people who come and live in our country should reject these dark-age ideologies, which many of them bring with them.”

But all this is something of a side show, as we fully expect former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and his financial backer Arron Banks to launch their “Ukip 2.0” movement in the near future.

Our own polling (of 4,000 people across England) suggests that 14 per cent of people view Farage as their natural choice of political leader. The same poll revealed that a worrying 52 per cent of people distrusted Muslims following last year’s terror attacks, so with rising tensions and as Brexit gathers pace, we expect anti-immigration sentiment to be replaced with anti-Muslim views, something Farage and Banks’s new movement is likely to seek to exploit.

While the comedy capers this weekend might cause some amusement, there are very real tensions out there which the Farage/Banks duo (think “Breaking Point” posters) may seek to exploit. One only has to look across the water to the rise of Marine Le Pen of the Front National in France, or even more appropriately Donald Trump in the States, to see how the radical right message has been embraced by populist leaders – driving us in a dangerous direction for the future.

Nick Lowles is chief executive of anti-racism campaign Hope Not Hate

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