UKIP’s ruling body has passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in party leader Henry Bolton following a row over his 25-year-old girlfriend.
The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) held an emergency meeting on Sunday after married father-of-three Mr Bolton, 54, faced growing calls to quit over his relationship with model Jo Marney.
Mr Bolton ended the romantic element of their relationship last week, when it emerged party activist Ms Marney had sent offensive messages about Prince Harry’s fiancee Meghan Markle.
She was also reported to have sent separate messages making jokes about child sexual abuse.
UKIP members will now decide whether to endorse or reject the ruling body’s assessment of Mr Bolton’s leadership at an emergency general meeting.
The news comes less than four months since he was elected.
Following Sunday’s meeting, party chairman Paul Oakden said: In an emergency meeting of the UKIP National Executive today, a discussion took place on recent press coverage of the party leader, Henry Bolton.
Having heard a statement from Mr Bolton, the NEC asked a number of questions pertaining to that coverage.
At the conclusion of that discussion, the committee took the decision to hold a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Henry Bolton.
The vote was carried unanimously, with the exception of the leader.
This decision will automatically trigger an EGM of the party, to allow the membership of UKIP the democratic opportunity to decide to endorse or reject that vote of no confidence.
This meeting will be held within the next month – unless Mr Bolton resigns first.
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Bolton had defiantly refused to stand down and insisted the party cannot afford a third leadership contest in the space of two years.
Telling UKIP bosses they would have to force him out, Mr Bolton told Sky News: The party cannot afford the disruption of a change in leadership – so I’m not going anywhere.
The former British Army officer also suggested that, if UKIP’s NEC acted against him, it could spell the party’s end.
His assertion was backed up by former leader Nigel Farage, who admitted he was concerned about the future of the party and wondered whether UKIP would survive another leadership election.
Since Mr Farage stood down after the Brexit vote in 2016, UKIP has had three permanent leaders and two acting leaders, including a temporary return by Mr Farage himself.
Commenting on Sunday’s decision by UKIP’s ruling body, the party’s Brexit spokesman Gerard Batten posted on Twitter: UKIP NEC passed a unanimous vote of No Confidence in Henry Bolton.
He should do the decent thing and resign. For God’s sake GO!