BEN WALKER: An Open Letter To Henry Bolton
Having watched your comments from today in Bolton I have no choice but to write to you to request you cease blaming others for the mess you now find yourself in.
This whole saga started with the promotion of your relationship with Jo Marney on social media – something no one else has any part in. No one made you leave your wife and start up a relationship with a 25-year-old and no one made you put evidence of this new relationship on a medium so widely used by the media to gather stories.
You insist, during your tour of branches, on making out that this vote of no confidence you face is because of a “coup” and nothing to do with your behaviour. However, your tweet on the 26th December in which you say you were with another woman, Jo Marney, only some three days after you walked out on your family, was always going to be picked up on. Indeed, in an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC you were asked about that tweet and asked who Jo Marney was where you answered that she was a ‘colleague’.
The first of many members, including myself, heard of the end of your marriage and this new relationship was an email sent on the eve of the story appearing in The Sun. Before then, questions had been raised about your and Ms Marney’s social media messages amongst members and this obviously found its way to the media. In fact, I have since heard that the Sunday Mirror had been outside her parents’ house taking photographs and this caused you to contact Margot Parker to complain and request advice – a shock for her since she believed you to be in Vienna with your family.
On reading the email I was concerned that many of the events of which you spoke did not tally with events as I and others remembered them, including specifically your claim that your marriage was over in July despite you campaigning with your wedding ring on and saying you were happily married. However, no one at this point called for you to resign.
In fact, it was not until your wife spoke out in an interview and claimed the story you told about your relationship was not true that people started calling wondering whether they had been misled and if you were the right man to lead a national political party.
It was that interview which shone a light on a number claims you made which Mrs Smurova disagreed with. In her interview she mentions text messages from you: it is standard practice for any media outlet to check the veracity of messages before making any mention of them in print else they be liable for a legal challenge and since none has been forthcoming I must believe that not only did the newspaper view the messages but that they are valid.
You also claim that text messages were given to the press to deliberately sabotage you. The messages which have caused significant damage to the reputation of the party are those by Ms Marney discussing Meghan Markle. I do not know who sent these messages to the media but despite your attempts to blame them on me, an article in the Mail on Sunday that I understand was instigated by you to try to deflect attention away from your wrongdoing clearly states that those messages were not sent by me or the person you are intent on blaming. I do not know who sent them but I imagine they secured a good price for them because they were, without question, a legitimate story given your and Ms Marney’s promotion of your own relationship and its launching into the public domain. No one forced Ms Marney to write those disgusting opinions and I do not see how they were ‘taken out of context’: what most people can see is an older man blinded by lust for a woman thirty years his junior and prepared to defend her no matter the cost to him or others around him.
The messages which I believe shine a light on your behaviour and your moral compass are the ones to Ms Marney’s ex-boyfriend Patrick Gilmour where you clearly threaten him unless he deletes conversations he had when he was dating Ms Marney. The fact that you were aware of the content of these messages which describe raping babies yet decided the best course of action was to write down threats in order to keep them from being read by anyone else is yet another valid reason for people to question your judgement. If they were indeed harmless messages then there was no reason to threaten someone, nor to announce to the world his private medical information. This once again is action taken by you which you refuse to take any responsibility for. Yet despite the evidence of your threats, you once again choose to blame everyone else but yourself and even try to get Mr Gilmour to lie and say that he doctored the images and did not want the messages in the media. You have seen for yourself this is not the case and even chose to publish messages of Mr Gilmour receiving advice that he should liaise directly with journalists himself. For the record, this situation is now being investigated by IPSO.
Your dogged devotion to this narrative that you have done nothing wrong is making people question your motives as UKIP leader since you seem clearly unable to take any responsibility for your own actions. In politics, people have to behave well in their public and private life because they are in a job which seeks to tell other people how to live their lives. As Jane Moore wrote in The Sun, ‘Because when a party leader shows such poor judgement in his private life and, to my mind, such disregard for the effect his sudden abandonment might have on his two young children, then I would question his credibility in forming policy on how the rest of us should live our lives.’
It is these headlines which you blame on some ‘left wing media’ conspiracy – although many would wonder at your politics if you call The Sun and the Daily Mail ‘left wing’. Yet what caused the scandal was not any ‘coup’ but your decision to abandon your wife and young family before Christmas and then publicise your relationship with another woman.
The story has been kept going by your behaviour, not anyone else’s, specifically the embarrassing interviews you do where you seem to find leaving your wife a laughing matter and the fact you clearly think it is more important that you support someone whose opinions not only on Meghan Markle and black people, but nurses, people from Eastern Europe, Iraqi children and quite possibly anyone other than herself and you, are repellant.
Your refusal to stop seeing this woman, who you claim is near to suicide yet who appears to spend her day attacking people on social media, angers party activists and gives fuel to our detractors that UKIP is a racist party. People have said they are afraid to canvass for the party now because they fear being called racists and even being attacked.
You took her out to dinner in the centre of London at the National Liberal Club where you were photographed and where you then gave an interview to a journalist well acquainted with UKIP. You were seen drinking with her in Folkestone at the hotel in which you live on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday night. You say it is important to stand by her and you will not abandon her, yet think it is okay to leave your wife and children and allow your supporters on social media to accuse her of abusive behaviour towards you.
We are weeks away from the May local elections and yet you spend your time threatening NEC members who have been an integral part of UKIP from way back when you were a Liberal Democrat with legal action for calling Ms Marney a ‘Moll’ – something, incidentally, which is more of a comment on your behaviour than it is hers since it implies you are a gangster, but it is very chivalrous of you to put your own reputation aside once again to protect her.
Henry, it may be that some people think you are the right person to lead this party and are happy to canvass in May’s local elections despite the absence of any policy and the only media stories being about your personal life and your sniping at your political opponents within the party. It may be that they believe that this vote in Birmingham will deliver the reform that many of us promised in the leadership election and which you have made no mention of until the NEC decided to call you out on your behaviour – although I hope you will point out that the vote in Birmingham is simply on your leadership and there will be no vote that day on any constitutional reform. It may be that the support of Nigel, who is happily trying to settle old scores using this situation as a battlefield and you as a weapon, is enough to save you as it was enough for you to win the leadership race in the first place despite your evident lack of political nouse and campaigning experience.
But whatever the outcome, what I have seen of your behaviour in the last few weeks leaves me with no choice but to believe that you are a deeply flawed individual in the throes of a mid-life crisis who refuses to accept any responsibility for his own behaviour. Your compatibility with touring the country spreading mistruths about colleagues, threatening people with mental health problems and publicising false information regarding the party’s finances demonstrates to me that you are unfit for the position of leader – or indeed any position within UKIP. Your alliance with people who have admitted that they are racist, with people who abuse women online and who think your wife is ‘fair game’ for an attack is not only unbecoming it is unacceptable for even a member of this party.
Furthermore, I have been told by more than one member of the NEC that despite your claims made at these meetings post the vote of no confidence taken in you that you have never presented any plans regarding constitutional reform to the NEC. What they have said is that the only initiative you have ever presented is putting up membership fees which, rightly or wrongly, the NEC backed you on. I personally do not believe putting up membership fees is the answer, particularly for Young Independence, but this was the decision taken by you, your team and the NEC. Furthermore what it does demonstrate is that the NEC has a 100 percent record of supporting the leader which makes their decision to vote against you and your bizarre accusations and leaks of confidential information more surprising and less flattering towards yourself.
Having served myself in the military I am all too aware of the importance of personal responsibility and the need for people in a team to be able to rely on each other and trust in their honour and integrity. I fail to see what you have left of either.