Ukip have just announced their new leader – and it’s not who you would expect. Anne Marie Waters – the far-right anti-Islam candidate – has been beaten to first place by a former Lib Dem candidate named Henry Bolton. Bolton, who won with 30pc of the vote, used his acceptance speech to make clear that Brexit is Ukip’s priority: ‘Brexit is our core task however, it is not the end of the line.’
Outside of Ukip circles, Bolton is a relative unknown. A former soldier, Bolton is a one-time Lib Dem member who has worked as an EU common defence strategist. Although this might not sound like the typical credentials of a Ukip politician, Bolton is respected within the party – winning multiple endorsements from the party’s MEPs during the course of the leadership campaign. Crucially, he appeared to have Nigel Farage’s support.
His election will be met with a sigh of relief by many of Ukip’s top command. Bolton is seen as being on the moderate wing of the party – previously warning that Ukip could become the ‘UK Nazi party’ if it selected the wrong candidate. In the event Marie Waters won, Nigel Farage had threatened to set up a new party.
However, this is not to say that Ukip is about to fall into the centre-ground. After the party took a pummelling in the snap election, Bolton think the party should take inspiration from Germany’s AfD – the far-right party took pundits by surprise in the elections there earlier this month:
The path ahead for Ukip won’t be easy. Since the Brexit vote, they have struggled to find relevance. However, as Bolton identified in his acceptance speech, Brexit could be their saviour yet. As the Conservatives begin to make concessions to Brussels over Britain’s exit from the EU, Ukip could find itself making a comeback as the only party pushing for a total Brexit.