Nigel Farage has struck a secret deal with embattled Ukip leader Henry Bolton designed to pave the way for his return to frontline politics, party sources have claimed.
Under the plan, Mr Bolton – who is refusing to resign over his relationship with glamour model Jo Marney – would rip up the party’s management structure before standing aside for Mr Farage to return.
In return, Mr Bolton would be rewarded with a senior job by Mr Farage, who would then rebrand the party as a pro- hard-Brexit ‘movement’ – potentially with a new name.
Talks: Embattled Ukip leader Henry Bolton, left, and former party chief Nigel Farage, right, in 2016
The plan, which sources say Mr Farage has confided to friends, would explain why Mr Bolton, 54, has stayed in his job despite a vote of no confidence being passed by Ukip’s ruling body last weekend and mass resignations by the party’s spokespeople.
The vote followed The Mail on Sunday’s revelations that Ms Marney, 25, had sent racist texts about Meghan Markle. An extraordinary general meeting of party members will be held next month to decide whether Mr Bolton should be forced out.
With Ukip haemorrhaging members and close to bankruptcy, many analysts believe it could soon be extinct. But allies of Mr Farage, including the multi-millionaire businessman and former Ukip donor Arron Banks, believe there is a gap in the market for a new party – or a reformed and rebranded Ukip.
Mr Farage has told his friends that Ukip does not have a future unless its ruling National Executive Committee is scrapped and the organisation streamlined. If Mr Bolton survives the vote, Mr Farage is understood to have urged him to carry out the reforms in return for his support.
Lovers: Bolton with Jo Marney, who outraged party members with racist texts about Meghan Markle
Mr Bolton announced earlier this month that he had left his wife Tatiana, 42, with whom he has two children, and started a relationship with Ms Marney.
Ukip was then plunged into civil war by our revelations of Ms Marney’s messages, which claimed that Prince Harry’s fiancee would ‘taint’ the Royals with her ‘seed’ and pave the way for a ‘black king’.
Yesterday, Mr Bolton insisted his relationship with Ms Marney – which ended shortly after our revelations became public – was not just about sex and there were ‘feelings on both sides’.
In an interview, he admitted he spoke to his ex-girlfriend ‘most nights’ and was worried about the ‘consequences’ if he left her life completely.
Asked about the deal with Mr Farage, a Ukip spokesman said: ‘There are a lot of ifs and buts in that sequence of events.’