UKIP leader 'won't quit' over partner's Meghan Markle texts

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image captionMr Bolton took over as UKIP leader in September

UKIP leader Henry Bolton has said he will not stand down, despite calls for his resignation over racist comments reportedly made by his girlfriend.

Jo Marney apologised in the Mail on Sunday for saying black people were ugly and Prince Harry's fiancee, Meghan Markle, would "taint" the Royal Family.

Senior party members have questioned Mr Bolton's judgement, calling his private life an "unhelpful distraction".

But in a video obtained by the Daily Mail, he said he would not resign.

Ms Marney, a 25-year-old model, claimed her texts, published by the Mail on Sunday, were taken out of context.

More offensive comments alleged to have been written by her have appeared in Monday's papers.

Mr Bolton is due to speak to the media on Monday morning.

The former army officer took over as UKIP leader in September. If he were to quit, it would leave UKIP seeking its fifth leader in 18 months.

Meanwhile five UKIP members - including MEP Bill Etheridge and former leadership candidate Ben Walker - have drafted a proposal for transforming the party, which includes the removal of Mr Bolton in order to "save the party from imminent insolvency".

"One of our task-force is confident he has already persuaded Henry to do the right thing," the proposal reads.

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Mr Etheridge had previously said Mr Bolton, 54, should step aside "quickly", calling him a "naive political lightweight" whose personal life was distracting from policy.

He cited several other complaints including a rise in membership fees, adding that Mr Bolton did not have the "experience or the political nous or the correct advice to deal with the issue that he faces".

"He must go, he must go quickly, he must go as quietly as possible," he said.

Former UKIP leadership candidate Suzanne Evans told BBC News it was "scandal after scandal with Mr Bolton".

Analysis: By BBC political correspondent, Alex Forsyth

UKIP was riding high after the EU referendum result, but since then the party has struggled with internal divisions.

When elected last September, Henry Bolton became its fourth leader in little over a year. Many had hoped he'd unite the party and restore its focus on Brexit.

Now, as his future hangs in the balance, five UKIP members have come up with what they call a proposal for the party's transformation.

MEPs Stuart Agnew and Bill Etheridge join Freddy Vachha, Ben Walker and Catherine Blaiklock to lead what they call an interim task force.

It's stark in its assessment of UKIP's current standing - saying it doesn't deserve to run anything and is rightly perceived to be incompetent.

The group suggests radical financial and structural changes - including an all-new managerial team, a new leader and a crackdown on rental costs and expenses. Whether their idea is adopted or not, most in UKIP recognise it needs a drastic solution to its current problems.

The party chairman, Paul Oakden, said on Sunday that the leader had "some difficult decisions" to make.

"He intends on making those decisions today, and I'm sure whatever he does will be in the best interests of the party," he told BBC's Sunday Politics.

Mr Oakden declined to give his own views on Mr Bolton's situation, but said the party needs to be "behind our leader 100% in taking that battle (for Brexit) forward".

"Whether or not the party decides it is willing to give that support to Henry is for the party to decide," he said.

media captionHenry Bolton tells the BBC's Daily Politics he did not want the publicity his relationship with a 25-year-old model attracted

The Mail on Sunday said Ms Marney sent the messages three weeks before her relationship with Mr Bolton started.

When a reply to one of her texts suggested her comments were racist, she added "so what?" and said she did not want other races invading her culture.

In a statement to the newspaper, Ms Marney said: "I apologise unreservedly for the shocking language I used.

"The opinions I expressed were deliberately exaggerated in order to make a point and have, to an extent, been taken out of context. Yet I fully recognise the offence they have caused."

Mr Bolton earlier replied to a party member online who urged him to call for Ms Marney to have her membership removed.

"She has to go or he and @UKIP are doomed if we let this behaviour happen in the party," the teenage activist said.

In replying, Mr Bolton tweeted: "Jo was suspended immediately upon us receiving this information."

Mr Bolton confirmed his relationship with Ms Marney in a letter to UKIP supporters earlier this month, after splitting up with his wife.

He denied he had been involved in a "clandestine affair".