UKIP have avoided becoming the “UK Nazi Party” according to the unknown ex-Army officer Henry Bolton after he was elected its new party leader.
He was the surprise winner as bookies expected a two-horse race between controversial candidates Anne-Marie Waters and Peter Whittle.
Members threatened to resign en mass if far-right anti-Islam campaigner Waters – founder of Pegida UK – won the race to replace Paul Nuttall as the party’s permanent boss.
But it in a shock result at the party’s conference in Torquay it was revealed 54-year-old outsider Bolton – backed by the former leader Nigel Farage – had coasted the victory.
He won with almost 30 per cent of the votes cast in the seven-horse race – despite being little known outside of the party.
Mr Bolton had previously pledged to “restore Nigel Farage’s legacy”, and the ex-Ukip leader tweeted that he was “delighted” with the security consultant’s victory, and calling the person who has his old job “a man of real substance”.
And former party funder Arron Banks, who has stepped away in recent years, said it was “great news”, adding: “I’m sure both myself and Nigel will want to re-engage with the party!”
Mr Farage, who couldn’t attend the conference due to a family funeral, had threatened to start a new party if Ms Waters – favourite with the bookies – had been victorious.
But instead he pledged to help Mr Bolton in whatever way he can as the party tries to find a new identity in the post-Brexit political landscape.
Ms Waters had built a dedicated fanbase thanks to her extreme Islamophobic rhetoric, but she clearly failed to convince the party faithful, who stuck with the more traditional candidate.
There was loud cheering from the delegates, some of whom punched the air, when it was revealed Ms Waters had failed to get elected, finishing more than 1,000 votes behind Mr Bolton, who says Islam is a “problem”.
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She ended up with 2,755 votes to his 3,874, with David Kurten in third on 2,201, John Rhys Evans on 2,021 votes, while Peter Whittle – seen as the other front-runner – finishing way back in fifth on 1,413 votes.
Overall there were 12,915 votes cast, which party chairman Paul Oakden says represented a turnout of 46.5 per cent to elect the party’s fourth leader in just over a year.
Speaking after his shock victory Mr Bolton: “Brexit is our core task, however, it is not the end of the line.”
In his victory speech he called on members to rally around the party and unite behind him to allow him to deliver its aims.
Quoting the motto of the Sandhurst army officer training centre where he graduated from, he said he would “serve to lead”.
The security consultant added: “I do not see myself now as simply being your leader, I see myself as serving this party.
“You are the party, not me, and this party needs to serve its country.
“There is no greater calling than that and I would call on all of you, whether you voted for me or not, to rally around the party, to be united.”
Asked whether Ukip had avoided becoming the “UK Nazi Party”, referring to comments he made in the campaign, Mr Bolton told a press conference: “Absolutely, yes.”
He went on: “Absolutely, I think the party has today voted for a leader who has been very open about what he feels is the way forward, and that’s myself of course.
“The personality thing – I’m not Nigel, none of us are Nigel, none of you are Nigel, Nigel is Nigel and I’m not going to try and fill his boots, I have my own style, I have my own personality and I think you will see that emerge.”
He added: “When I’m standing up on the platform then I’m quite firm in my approach, but, actually, get me, like Nigel, in the bar with a beer and I like a laugh and a joke, and I’m just as convivial as he is, I think.”
Mr Bolton does not hold any political office, but had previously stood to be Kent Police Crime Commissioner, losing out to the Tories last year.
He only joined Ukip in 2014, having been a member of the Liberal Democrats – standing to become an MP for them in the 2005 General Election.
He ran against Philip Hammon in his Runnymede seat, finishing third.
Before that he was deployed to countries like Croatia, Kosovo, Libya and Ukraine on diplomatic missions for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
He is also an ex-Thames Valley police officer and received an award for outstanding bravery during his eight years on the force.
Mr Bolton describes himself as “an expert in borders, security and foreign policy” and has worked as a diplomat for the United Nations, Foreign Office and the EU, according to his website.
He was awarded an OBE by Princess Anne in 2013, but hit headlines last year when his wife Tatiana Smurova-Bolton, 41, gave birth on a packed train.
The new leader has said in the past left-wing extremists are as bad as the BNP and EDL.
The announcement of a new leader comes as the party also unveiled a new slogan and a new logo.
But the branding was immediately mocked for bearing a very close similarity to the Premier League lion, prompting fears they might be sued.
A spokesman for the party rejected the claims, saying he was confident it did not breach any copyright laws, adding: “We’ve checked – we’re not that stupid.”
And Ukip’s chairman Paul Oakden was also unfazed by the row, claiming the party had “done their due diligence” in an interview with the BBC this lunchtime.
Asked if they are worried if there are going to be some legal troubles he responded: “No, I’m not worried.
“For a start I don’t mind Ukip being associated with the Premier League, its a multi-million pound organisation.”
And Mr Bolton brushed the matter off – saying he “had no idea what the Premier League’s logo looks like”, but that he was happy with the members’ choice.
The row was kicked off by Ukip’s interim boss Steve Crowther, who said the party was ditching its traditional Pound symbol in favour of a new design as it tries to re-brand itself.
A design firm came up with several alternative ideas for the members to vote on, with delegates at the conference given a red disc to place in a bucket indicating which of the final two they preferred.
Both contain their new slogan “for the nation”, with one of them having swooping lines in the party’s traditional purple and yellow colours along the side.
The other has a purple roaring lion, and got the loudest cheer from delegates when it was unveiled on stage.
And it was the runaway success – winning the vote by 435 to 81, and is already being used.