Ukip leader Henry Bolton has stated he still has “strong affections” for his ex-girlfriend Jo Marney, despite the revelation she sent racist messages about Meghan Markle.
In January it emerged that Ms Marney had made highly offensive comments about Prince Harry’s fiancee and black people.
The leaked messages resulted in her being suspended from the party, and Ukip’s ruling national executive committee backing a motion of no confidence in Mr Bolton.
The party leader had previously said the romantic side of their relationship had ended, but the pair were pictured together days after declaring the romance was over.
Asked by Andrew Marr on his BBC1 show if he was “still in love” with Ms Marney, the former army officer said: “There are strong affections there yes.”
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Mr Bolton told Mr Marr the “general consensus” was that there was a “problem with my judgment around that whole episode”.
However, he added: “But the point is that actually we are off, and we have been for a very long time, off the field in terms of the debate on leaving the European Union.
“What we should be doing is shaping the future of this country’s independence, and that’s what we should be focusing on, not whether or not somebody, way before I met them, actually sent private messages that actually had nothing to do with me and I had no means of knowing about.”
Mr Marr said Mr Bolton had described his relationship with Ms Marney as “on hold”, and asked him: “It’s no longer on hold, is it?”
Mr Bolton replied: “Well, if you’ll excuse me Andrew, I think actually what the party’s concerned about is unifying and projecting its politics.
“For a very long time now, for way before I became leader, all of the members have known that internal communications, the finances, the organisation of the party needed an overhaul.”
Mr Bolton also suggested that Ms Marney’s messages relating to Ms Markle had been “doctored”, adding: “In the days to come there will be more evidence being presented as to how they were obtained.”
A number of senior figures quit their roles after Mr Bolton’s refusal to stand down following the vote of no confidence by Ukip’s ruling body,
Following Ms Marney’s suspension from the party, other members of Ukip called for the action to be made permanent.
Peter Whittle, former leader of the party, described her remarks as “disgraceful” on Twitter, and said she should be “expelled altogether”.
Former Ukip leadership candidate Ben Walker called for Mr Bolton to resign after Ms Marney’s messages emerged, accusing him of having “deeply flawed judgment”.
Mr Bolton is now due to face a vote over his leadership at a special meeting of party members.
Additional reporting by PA