Defiant Ukip leader Henry Bolton refuses to quit despite mass resignations
Ukip leader Henry Bolton has insisted he will not resign despite more than half of the party's frontbench resigning en masse in protest.
In a defiant statement, the embattled party boss said he would instead "drain the swamp" by rewriting the Ukip rulebook and reforming its executive body.
Mr Bolton was left fighting for his political life after the Ukip executive passed a motion of no confidence in his leadership over the scandal surrounding his relationship with Jo Marney, the 25-year-old model who was found to have sent racist messages.
Under Ukip's rules, the party's membership will now be given a vote on whether they want Mr Bolton removed from a job he only took up last September.
In what appeared to be a co-ordinated attempt to force him out, 12 of Ukip's 23 frontbench team announced they were quitting in protest at his leadership.
Speaking outside a hotel in Folkestone, Kent, where he has been holed up throughout the day, Mr Bolton insisted he would not be standing down.
He said: "I respect the next steps in the constitutional process and will therefore not be resigning as party leader. I repeat, I shall not be resigning as Party leader.
"Instead, during the next four weeks I shall be calling for the coordination and mobilisation of all Leave campaigns, to ensure that the Government delivers full independence from the European Union in
all areas of government and administration and I shall be calling for the party itself to mobilise to support this agenda.
"This is the most pressing matter facing our country and I am determined not to allow the NEC to distract the Party away from participating forcefully in the independence debate."
He added: "Without reflecting at all on its individual members, the NEC, as presently constituted, is unfit for purpose and has severely handicapped the party’s progress and political delivery for some years, as all recent UKIP leaders will attest.
"It has not only lost the confidence of me as the party leader in its ability to act objectively as the party’s governing body, it has also lost the confidence of a large proportion of the membership.
"The NEC requires significant and urgent reform. To that end, again during the coming weeks, I shall be proposing a new party constitution, with a newly constituted and reformed NEC.
"Likewise, it is now time to put an end to the factional in-fighting within the party and to remove those who have been a part of that."
He added: "In a single phrase, it is time to ‘Drain the Swamp’."
David Sprason became the latest spokesperson to quit as he fled the work and pensions brief - following education spokesman David Kurten and ten others.
Deputy leader Margot Parker, immigration spokesman John Bickley, assistant deputy leader Mike Hookem and trade spokesman William Dartmouth have also resigned in protest today.
PoliticsHome revealed earlier today that Ukip chairman Paul Oakden and general secretary Paul Oakley urged Mr Bolton to quit ahead of the no confidence vote yesterday.
A source said: "Henry Bolton's refusal to quit is a consequence of his military background. If he's attacked he fights back."
Under Ukip rules an emergency meeting of member representatives must be held in the 28 days after the no confidence vote to decide whether to support it and trigger a new leadership race.
Yesterday Mr Bolton argued a fresh leadership contest - the fourth in 18 months for the party - could finish it off once and for all.
The former army officer told ITV’s Peston show: “If the NEC decides to go down the route of months of further infighting and further negative media scrutiny by deciding to pass a vote of no confidence in me, then I think that the reality is that the party is probably over.”