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Ukip chair Paul Oakden says he will quit after leadership vote

Paul Oakden
Paul Oakden outlined a series of frustration over his role as party chair, saying it makes him the person whose fate it is to disappoint almost everybody. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The chair of Ukip has announced his intention to step down in a major blow to the party just days before leader, Henry Bolton, faces a confidence vote.

In a letter to members, Paul Oakden insisted that his decision was unconnected to the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to be held on Saturday, but did outline a series of frustrations in his role.

“Being the chairman of Ukip is an honour and a privilege,” he said. “It doesn’t come with champagne lunches, a whopping salary or great esteem.

“What it does bring are thousands of emails and letters, occasional angry members whom it’s just not possible to pacify, chairing the board, acting as a diplomat between the NEC and a leader (or five) and generally being the person whose fate it is to disappoint almost everybody.”

Oakden described this as the “baseline” of his role and said it expanded from there – but did say he was lucky to have the opportunity.

His decision comes after Bolton said he believed he would win the vote, despite ruling over a crisis that has seen a string of frontbench resignations after the NEC declared no-confidence in his leadership.

The politician faced the backlash after his girlfriend, Jo Marney, was revealed to have sent racist texts about Meghan Markle.

Despite ending the relationship, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “There are strong affections there, yes.” However, he insisted he was getting a “huge amount of support” from around the country, and wanted to tackle Ukip’s “factionalisation” and to professionalise its operation.

Asked by Marr if his leadership was over, he said: “No, I don’t believe it is.”

Oakden said that chairing Saturday’s meeting in Birmingham would be one of his more unenviable tasks – but that would be his last task at the helm of Ukip.

He said he voluntarily terminated his contract at the end of January. “This was entirely of my own volition,” he said.

Oakden added: “I have made this decision irrespective of the outcome of the EGM and I’m announcing it now to ensure that it remains absolutely unconnected to whatever democratic decision the membership may take on Saturday.

“As party chairman, appointed by the leader but answerable to the NEC, I have been required to remain impartial in the current process. As always, I have absolute faith in our membership to do what is necessary to protect the long term future of our party.”

This article titled "Ukip chair Paul Oakden says he will quit after leadership vote" was written by Anushka Asthana, political editor, for The Guardian on Monday 12 February 2018 08.22pm

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