Henry Bolton: Ukip has ‘a moral duty to deliver successful Brexit’
PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 September 2017
Odds on Mr Bolton becoming the new party leader have been slashed in recent weeks
Ukip has “a moral duty” to deliver a successful Brexit, the Kent man vying to become the party’s new leader has claimed.
Bookmakers have rapidly slashed odds on Henry Bolton being elected the new head of Ukip at the party’s annual conference in Torquay next week.
A former police officer and security expert, Mr Bolton currently lives in Folkestone, and stood in last year’s Kent police and crime commissioner election, finishing second behind Matthew Scott of the Conservatives.
However, it has been a turbulent 15 months for Ukip following the vote to leave the European Union last June - with tales of defections, infighting, crushing election losses and something of an identity crisis which leaves many wondering what exactly is the point of its continued existence.
In Kent it has enjoyed success in recent years, claiming control of its first ever council in Thanet back in 2015, and becoming the main party of opposition on Kent County Council two years earlier - though its representation at County Hall was completely wiped out when voters returned to the polls in May.
The county has of course also been home to one Nigel Farage, who, for now at least, will not be returning as the face of the party.
Speaking to KentNews.co.uk as his leadership campaign slowly begins to wind down, Mr Bolton, who is currently fourth-favourite with the bookies, was confident he was the best person to make Ukip relevant again.
“I don’t think anybody outside the party will be putting money on me because I don’t have as much of a political following outside the party as some of the other candidates,” he said.
“I think I’m going to do better than fourth. If you look at John Rees-Evans and Anne Marie Waters, they have got a massive online presence which has been established over time that is way in excess of membership numbers.
“But a lot of their following is not members – from our analysis of the supportive comments for Anne Marie Waters, only six per cent are from members, which brings her right down.
“I’ve been to hustings where the person chairing it said ‘I am supporting you and so is everybody else’ and they burst out in applause – there’s a huge amount of support.”
Mr Bolton’s CV is virtually bulging at the seams, having previously worked alongside the United Nations and the White House, and claims his vast breadth of experience gives him a headstart over his rivals.
“None of the others have got the experience of leading in terms of motivating, driving the support of an organisation and none have the organisational leadership that I’ve got,” he said.
“Some of my opponents say that they are the only ones who will truly change the party.
“Anne Marie Waters says she will ‘tell the truth about Islam’ and John Rees-Evans will bring direct democracy [where members vote on policy initiatives].
“These are niche but revolutionary ideas. But does the party want to go down either route? I don’t think so.
“They are making themselves different but I am saying we should focus on delivering the things we always wanted to – namely a successful Brexit.
“We have dropped the ball on that and we need to pick it up again. Ukip went to radio silence, the general election was a bit of a car crash campaign and since then we have done just about nothing.
“Someone asked me how I was going to deal with the fact the media aren’t reporting on us, but have we done anything? We have gone quiet.
“We have got a government that is compromising Brexit already.
“We have seen it in proposals for defence cooperation, it seems increasingly likely that there is going to be a significant payment to the EU, there’s a question mark over fisheries – there are all sorts of areas in which we may end up with a bit of a fudged Brexit.
“Then we had the discussions over the withdrawal bill last week – Ukip should be all over that, it’s a crucial piece of legislation.”
Of course, some would argue just how much of an influence the party can have without any parliamentary representation whatsoever.
Needless to say dad-of-three Mr Bolton, whose wife famously gave birth to daughter Victoria on a high-speed Southeastern train last year, disagrees with those claims.
He said: “We brought about the referendum with next-to-no MPs. Influence is power, it’s not all about bums on green seats in Westminster.
“Everybody has acknowledged we are leaving the customs union – Michel Barnier, Jean Claude Juncker, Theresa May, David Davis, even Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer – so why are we still moving ahead with 32 per cent cuts in the border force?
“Leaving the customs union implies we will have to do more work on our borders.
“There’s a real lack of strategic overview and thinking going on – we have failed to plan and prepare.
“We need to be shouting loud and clear that the government is missing something here.
“We have a moral responsibility to make sure Brexit is a success for everybody.”
In order to get itself crucial votes once again, Ukip is undergoing something of a rebrand, which will be unveiled next week.
It is understood the purple colours will remain, but the logo may change, while Mr Bolton also hopes to change wider perception of the party.
Ms Waters has proved a controversial figure for her public criticism of Islam, and her inclusion on the ballot paper has prompted warnings that she could split the party, with 18 of the 20 Ukip MEPs reported to be ready to quit if she wins.
Speaking of his opponent, Mr Bolton said: “Anne Marie Waters is a passionate and highly effective campaigner, but if you want to deliver anything you have to be credible.
“If Ukip goes down the route of being anti-Islam, it won’t be able to deliver on Brexit.
“She doesn’t provide solutions. If she were to totally ‘get it’, that you need to have more political acumen if you are going to make progress, she could be highly effective in the future.
“There are Muslims who have laid down their lives for this country and Muslims who are passionate believers in Britain – to paint them all with the same brush is absolutely unfair, unhelpful and unproductive.
“But the issues she raises are not irrelevant – we face a risk of jihadi Islam and a threat to our way of life by the sheer weight of numbers that come in from foreign culture and it’s our fault for failing to manage it.”
Kent’s association with Ukip has been strong in recent years, and not just because of Mr Bolton and Mr Farage, who unsuccessfully stood for parliament in South Thanet in 2015.
On a visit to Margate earlier this year, then-leader Paul Nuttall described the town as “the heart of Ukip” while Diane James, the leader who notoriously lasted only 18 days in the job, also has roots in the county having attended school in Rochester.
On why the party has traditionally proved popular in the south east, Mr Bolton said: “Ukip does well in coastal communities, which I think is because of our position on fishing, and we do well in areas that are traditionally British.
“In Kent, with the Weald, the Battle of Britain and the White Cliffs, they all contribute towards that overall context.
“It’s also been on the frontline – we’ve seen more immigrants jumping out of lorries.”
He is not, however, as enthusiastic about the job done by Chris Wells at Thanet District Council over the last two years, and saved particular criticism for alleged broken promises over Manston airport.
Cllr Wells hit back in response, insisting he would take his comments with “a pinch of salt”.
Mr Bolton is clearly confident in his abilities as a leader, and laughed off suggestions he would fail to last the distance as Mr Nuttall and Ms James did, were he to be chosen for the top job.
“You have to have a thick skin. As a former police officer I have that – I’ve been assaulted, spat on and called every name under the sun,” he said.
“I spent 27 months in Helmand, in which time the US marine corps battle group changed over five times. I was in the same place while the US felt it could only keep troops there for six months.
“I’m resilient and I’ve got the determination and the courage required.”