Ukip avoids split as Henry Bolton beats anti-Islam Anne Marie Waters to become leader
Ukip pulled itself back from a major split today as outsider Henry Bolton was crowned the party's new leader in a shock result.
The former Liberal Democrat pulled off the surprise victory with controversial anti-Muslim candidate Anne Marie Waters coming a distant second.
And in a crushing blow to the so-called ‘moderate’ wing of the party, continuity candidate Peter Whittle came in fifth place.
Mr Bolton - who has insisted the party must live on after Brexit - won 3,874 votes (29%) compared with 2,755 for Ms Waters.
A number of the party’s MEPs had threatened to quit if Ms Waters - who has links to extremist groups - had won the contest.
Former leader Nigel Farage had reportedly been planning to set up a new party if the ‘Sharia Watch’ founder had seized the crown."
In his victory speech, Mr Bolton called for unity after three divisive leadership contests and a humiliating general election result that left the party facing an existential crisis
“I do not see myself now as being simply your leader. I see myself as serving this party. You are the party, not me. This party needs to serve its country,” he said.
“Without being united we cannot lead, we cannot lead the nation and we cannot hold the Government to account and we cannot achieve our core purpose at all.”
And he added: "Brexit is our core task. However it is not the end of the line. When we leave the European Union that is not the end of the story.”
Mr Farage congratulated Mr Bolton on Twitter, branding him "a man of real substance".
Ukip General Secretary Paul Oakley told PoliticsHome: "I’m disappointed that Peter Whittle didn’t get it but I’m very pleased that it wasn’t Anne Marie Waters. Henry Bolton has an outstanding CV and will take the party places."
The leadership race was triggered after Paul Nuttall stood down in the wake of the general election that saw Ukip plummet to just 600,000 votes across the country.
But the story of the campaign became the rise of Ms Waters – who became the bookies’ favourite with her pitch against Islam and Sharia law.
Elsewhere, Ukip chairman Paul Oakden insisted he was "not worried" at the prospect of the Premier League taking legal action against the party over its new logo.