Nigel Farage: Henry Bolton could be the Jeremy Corbyn of Ukip
Henry Bolton could be the Jeremy Corbyn of Ukip and hand a "lifeline" to the party with his refusal to quit as leader, Nigel Farage has said.
In a shock intervention the ex-leader said the embattled boss could “surprise all of his critics” and win the support of the Ukip grassroots to overhaul the party executive and fight on for Brexit.
Mr Bolton clung on yesterday despite a stream of resignations from his frontbench in protest at his refusal to step down over his relationship with 25-year-old model Jo Marney.
The party’s National Executive Committee passed a unanimous motion of no-confidence at the weekend after it emerged his now ex-girlfriend sent racist Facebook messages to a friend.
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.
But in a surprise move, Mr Farage lent his backing to the ex-army officer, arguing he may be able to force through much needed reforms to the governing body.
The MEP admitted he had been “privately critical” of the new leader since his “level of visibility had been far too low and his direct communication with Ukip members too inconsistent”.
And he added: “Now he has attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. Ironically, this may not be a bad thing, however - if he has the wisdom to use his profile properly.”
“Bolton knows as well as anyone that UKIP must reform or die,” Mr Farage wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph.
“His refusal to accept the NEC decision to quit, and his insistence on carrying out a full [Emergency General Meeting], could provide a lifeline for Ukip.
“For this crisis is about more than Henry Bolton. It is about whether UKIP is fit for purpose.”
Mr Farage said the situation was like the “nightmare” Jeremy Corbyn faced from his MPs and the press - only to be saved by the rank and file Labour membership.
And he added: “If Bolton has the courage and the vision to introduce a new constitution, and shows that he can be a strong spokesman for Britain leaving the single market, taking back its fisheries and restoring pride in the UK, he may well surprise all of his critics too.”
In a defiant statement outside a hotel in Folkestone yesterday, Mr Bolton said the Ukip NEC “was unfit for purpose” and had been a “handicap” on the party’s progress in recent years.
He said he would propose a new rulebook, a reformed NEC, and called for an “end to the factional in-fighting within the party and to remove those who have been a part of that."
And he added: "In a single phrase, it is time to ‘Drain the Swamp’."