Nigel Farage’s suggestion of a privatised NHS flares tensions within Ukip

Internal rows suggest the party is struggling with pressure in run-up to the general election

ukip gen

Ukip is facing pre-election turmoil after policy differences and personality clashes burst into the open, with the party’s health spokeswoman slapping down Nigel Farage’s suggestion the NHS could eventually be privatised.

Amid signs of in-fighting and internal rivalry, a senior source admitted last night that the mood in Ukip’s higher echelons had become “scratchy and irritable” ahead of the 7 May ballots.

There is also dismay in parts of the party over the slow progress in compiling its manifesto, with the MEP responsible for drafting the document revealed to have recently relinquished responsibility for the task.

A fresh spotlight was shone on Ukip’s growing pains yesterday in a BBC interview when the party leader raised the prospect of ultimately replacing the state-funded NHS with an insurance-based healthcare system.

While stressing his party remained committed to healthcare free at the point of delivery, Mr Farage indicated it was “a debate that we are all going to have to return to” because of Britain’s rapidly ageing population.

Ukip’s health spokeswoman Louise Bours swiftly contradicted her leader as she insisted the vast majority of party members “will always favour a state-funded NHS”.

Ms Bours said: “Nigel is entitled to his opinion and others are entitled to theirs, we don’t whip people into all thinking the same thing, like the establishment parties.

“As he has said before, he raised the idea for discussion a while ago, the party discussed it and rejected it. I am certain that if the party discuss it again, we will reject it again.”

The clash followed the disclosure that Suzanne Evans, Ukip’s deputy chairwoman, had taken over the writing of the party’s manifesto from the Euro-MP Tim Aker.

He was reported to have fallen behind with completing the final draft, leading to protests from candidates that they were struggling to answer voters’ questions on the doorstep.

The party dismissed claims he had been sacked as “complete tosh” and said he had asked about 10 days ago to be relieved of the duty, although sources acknowledged Mr Aker had been behind schedule as he attempted to juggle his other jobs as an MEP, councillor and parliamentary candidate.

Tim Aker has relinquished the responsibility of writing the party’s manifesto (PA)

Tim Aker has relinquished the responsibility of writing the party’s manifesto (PA)

Work on the manifesto was also affected by the furore surrounding the party’s general secretary, Roger Bird, who was cleared internally of a sexual harassment allegation but stood down from his post by mutual consent.

Meanwhile, the party has been hit by a farcical series of events over its choice of a candidate in the Essex seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock. Kerry Smith – who was selected after the former MP Neil Hamilton pulled out amid controversy over his expenses – was forced to quit over offensive remarks he made in a telephone call.

Evidence is also emerging of rival camps gathering around Mr Farage and Ukip’s first elected MP, Douglas Carswell. The MP for Clacton upset some party traditionalists with a call for it to be “inclusive” and is understood to be at odds with senior figures over health and defence policies.

The Independent


Ex-UKIP candidate Kerry Smith ‘to run as independent’

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith is to announce he will run in the Essex seat of Basildon South and East Thurrock, the BBC has learned.

Mr Smith was forced to resign after apologising for remarks he made in a phone call, a recording of which was obtained by the Mail on Sunday.

UKIP said he was “his own man” and “entitled to stand”.

He had been selected to fight the South Basildon and East Thurrock seat after ex-Tory MP Neil Hamilton pulled out.

But his behaviour was described by UKIP leader Nigel Farage as “loutish and wholly inappropriate” after the remarks were revealed last month.

In the recorded phone call, Mr Smith made offensive remarks about gay people, other UKIP members and Chigwell in Essex.

After resigning from the party, Mr Smith, who sits as an independent on both Essex County Council and Basildon District Council, told the BBC he may have been a victim of “black arts” within the party and that his remarks were no worse than the language in the TV comedy Only Fools and Horses.

UKIP said it would leave it to the people of Basildon to choose who represents them and would not comment on the impact Mr Smith might have on the their vote in May.

BBC News

Ukip clears Roger Bird of impropriety over sexual harassment claims

Party general secretary to stand aside as a result of negative publicity caused by candidate Natasha Bolter’s claims

Roger Bird, secretary general of Ukip, who was suspended after sexual harassment allegations.

Roger Bird, secretary general of Ukip, who was suspended after sexual harassment allegations.

Roger Bird, the Ukip general secretary, has been cleared by an inquiry of sexually harassing the aspiring parliamentary candidate Natasha Bolter.

But Bird has agreed with Ukip to stand down early as general secretary following what the party described as unfortunate publicity after Bolter accused him of having invited her back to his London club on the day of her initial interview to become a parliamentary candidate.

Ukip will hope the inquiry’s swift conclusion will draw a line under the episode, which contributed to a difficult few weeks for the party after its victory in the Rochester and Strood byelection.

Bird was suspended as the Ukip general secretary earlier this month after Bolter claimed that he had sexually harassed her during her attempt to become the party’s candidate in the target seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock. But Bird released 10 text messages from Bolter to prove his claim that they had been in a brief consensual relationship this autumn. Ukip said the independent inquiry had accepted Bird’s explanation. A spokesman said: “Ukip has concluded its inquiry into allegations regarding its general secretary, Roger Bird. The inquiry was conducted by an independent HR consultancy, to ensure that these serious allegations were fully, impartially and carefully investigated.

“As a result of the investigation, the party accepts Mr Bird’s statement that the personal relationship between him and Ms Bolter was consensual and found no evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassment. In addition, the party is satisfied that Mr Bird’s actions did not compromise the integrity of its candidate selection process, and indeed that the circumstances of the case underline the robust nature of the party’s assessment, approval and candidate-vetting system.”

But it said the party had mutually agreed that he would stand down as general secretary. “Given the unfortunate publicity stimulated by media speculation, it has been mutually agreed to bring Mr Bird’s fixed-term contract of employment to an earlier conclusion. The party would like to thank Mr Bird for his contribution and valued service over the past five months.”

Bird said: “I am very glad that the party has investigated and dismissed the allegations of sexual harassment and any impropriety regarding the selection of Ms Bolter as a candidate. I wish Ukip every success in the election campaign. I remain a member and keen supporter of the party and I will continue to make every effort to help our candidates to victory in May.”

The episode contributed to a difficult end to 2014 for Ukip after its most successful year: it won a national poll for the first time – the European parliamentary elections – before capturing two Westminster seats in the Clacton and the Rochester and Strood byelections. The success was quickly overshadowed by the battle for the Ukip nomination in South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Kerry Smith, the eventual candidate, was forced to stand down after the Mail on Sunday published details from a taped telephone call in which he spoke of “poofters” and referred to a Chinese woman as “chinky”.

Smith was selected for the seat after Neil Hamilton, the former Tory MP at the heart of the cash-for-questions scandal in the mid-1990s, abandoned his run after details of his expenses were published.

Natasha Bolter had by then withdrawn from the contest after claiming that she had been harassed by Bird. But questions were raised about her account and over her claims to have studied, as Bird did, at Oxford. The university said it had no record of her as a student.

The Guardian

Nigel Farage’s approval rating hits ‘record low’ as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal

Mr Farage wrote to Mr Powell asking for his support to win a by-election in 1994

Mr Farage wrote to Mr Powell asking for his support to win a by-election in 1994

Nigel Farage’s personal approval rating has plummeted to its lowest ever level, with a new poll suggesting the Ukip leader is now as unpopular as David Cameron.

Figures released by the polling group Ipsos Mori revealed that voter satisfaction with Mr Farage has dropped 14 percentage points in a single month.

The Ukip leader was described only yesterday by a senior Ukip spokesperson as being “like Teflon” because bad news for the party never seemed to stick to him.

But it seems that a sex scandal involving the party’s now-suspended general secretary and rows over public breastfeeding, expenses and immigration blame-games have finally taken their toll.

Of all voters across the political spectrum, 53 per cent said they were “dissatisfied with the way Nigel Farage is doing his job as leader of Ukip”, while 33 per cent were “satisfied”. With “don’t knows” taken into account, Mr Farage now has a similar net approval rating to the Prime Minister – -20 and -21 respectively.

Among Ukip’s own supporters, Mr Farage remains highly popular – 92 per cent said they were satisfied with what he’s doing.

The figures also showed an overall increase in numbers of people saying they would vote Green – up two points to 9 per cent of those surveyed when the fieldwork was carried out at the weekend. Ipsos Mori’s Gideon Skinner said the poll showed “the rise of the ‘other parties’ as a mirror to the weakness of the traditional three” – Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem.

Mr Farage dismissed the apparent drop in his popularity, telling the Evening Standard it was “a volatile market”.

“Ukip has had a pretty remarkable year,” he said. “If we are ending on a slightly softer note, it’s perhaps not surprising.”

The past month started well for Ukip when it won its second parliamentary seat through Tory defector Mark Reckless.

But November ended badly for Mr Farage when he appeared to support the idea of classing the children of immigrants born in the UK as immigrants themselves – a policy shift that would include his own children.

At the start of December the Ukip leader waded into a row over breastfeeding at Claridge’s – suggesting mothers with babies could “perhaps sit in the corner”. A couple of days later he provoked derision by blaming his lateness at a “Meet Nigel Farage” event on immigration.

Meanwhile, the Ukip sex scandal involving Roger Bird and prominent female activist Natasha Bolter rolled on, with seemingly no winners on either side.

Last week, Mr Farage faced up to the comedian Russell Brand on the BBC’s Question Time. Though he generally came through it well, he was accused of being a “pound-shop Enoch Powell” by his fellow panellist.

At the weekend – as the Ipsos Mori poll was being carried out – Ukip’s candidate in a top target seat Kerry Smith was forced to resign after it emerged he had made homophobic and racist remarks and joked about shooting poor people.

Neil Hamilton, the party’s deputy chairman, was prevented from standing in Natasha Bolter’s vacated seat by what he called a “dirty tricks” campaign involving an expenses dispute. He was later revealed to have advocated a return to “civilised rule” in South Africa.

Though outside the polling period, this week Ukip was also found to have secured £1.5 million by forming a new EU group – and was accused of hypocrisy as a result. And on Tuesday, it was revealed that Mr Farage was not entirely accurate when he claimed in a TV programme that his wife was not being paid by the public sector.

The Independent

Explain your expenses: Ukip demands details from Neil Hamilton

Tonight, as Ukip is holding its selection meeting for the constituency of Basildon South, a letter from the Ukip finance committee querying expenses claims made by the former Tory MP Neil Hamilton has been seen by Channel 4 News

The fact this letter was written on the day that Neil Hamilton was due to appear at the selection meeting in Basildon reflects the deep concerns within the Ukip high command about him becoming the party’s candidate in one of Ukip’s most promising seats.

Previously the Ukip hierarchy barred Mr Hamilton from the party lists for the European elections last May and from the selection contest in Boston and Skegness.

With less than an hour to go before the selection meeting, Mr Hamilton described the leaking of the letter as “a dirty trick” to deliberately destabilise the hustings, saying some of the queries it contained had already been answered.

Given that he had only just seen it, no point-by-point response to the issues raised has yet been forthcoming from Mr Hamilton.

The letter begins:

Dear Neil Hamilton,

To assist you in focusing your mind on Ukip’s simple and not unreasonable request that you explain your expenses claims. Would you please provide details of the following to the F&RC Committee;

1. In the case of each and every mileage claim, detail where you went, who you saw and why you had to make this trip.
2. Provide the invoice for each disbursement that you say you have incurred, detailing why this disbursement was incurred, and in the case of a lunch for example, whom you were having lunch with and for what purpose.
3. Provide an explanation of each stay that has been charged for your wife’s flat detailing why it was more convenient for you to stay there, rather than at your house.
4. State who agreed that you were able to charge for staying in your wife’s flat post the European elections.

The letter also provides confirmation that Mr Hamilton was deposed from his paid job as Ukip campaign manager for the European elections:

5. Prior to the European elections, please confirm who agreed that you would be able to charge for your stay in your wife’s flat , and obviously at the same time set out why, and where you were that required that you utilise this flat on a specific day.
– More particularly what interested the committee is why, after you were removed from the job that you were originally allocated prior to the European elections, you continued to use this flat as you were no longer performing that role.

6. To assist you, [Redacted] has specifically told us that he did not agree for you to charge VAT on the salary you received prior to the European Election. We have seen the email trail and would like an explanation as to why you did not go back to those who agreed this salary and why you did not make it known that you intended to charge VAT on your salary by charging Ukip through a company for your services as this incurred Ukip in extra costs. It is accepted that Ukip would have had to pay employer’s NI which is substantially less than VAT.
– What is wrong here, is that you failed to go back to the management committee to clear the arrangement knowing that Ukip was at all times during this campaign short of money.

7. To further assist you, in respect of expenses claimed with your new role, (Deputy Chairman Regions) [Redacted] has specifically told us that you could claim expenses for any tasks that he requested you to carry out. Accordingly can you please provide, for each item of work, confirmation that this was specifically done at [Redacted]‘s behest.

We note that you have withdrawn your claim for attendance and stay at the Doncaster Conference as you now say that it was wrongly put in due to a “fit of pique” – whatever that means.

We further note that you are no longer proceeding with this claim at all. We find this somewhat surprising particularly as, if the expenses can be substantiated, as set out above, there no reason for Ukip not to pay it or for you to withdraw the claim!

We need to place on record that we knew nothing of any expense claims you had put into Ukip until [Redacted] brought the expense claim that you have now withdrawn to my attention because [Redacted] had been asked on a couple of occasions by your wife to pay this invoice and [Redacted] felt that we ought to see it to confirm that payment was in order. In addition, prior to this, the NEC had asked for greater information to be provided to them on Ukip’s finances and expenses and no doubt this is what prompted [Redacted] to mention this to us as he was concerned by it.

We hope the above will assist you in providing the information that is required to substantiate your claims. You have already had over a month to assemble this information and the F& RC committee should be obliged to receive this information by close of business Friday 19th December, particularly, as [Redacted] has pointed out to us, Ukip’s year end is 31stDecember.

Please do bear in mind that we receive at Lexdrum House handwritten letters from pensioners enclosing a £5 or a £10 note which they have managed to save so as to send it to Ukip and hence we need to make sure that all expenses are fully explainable.

Mr Hamilton became a hugely controversial figure whilst serving as a Tory MP over allegations that he took cash in brown envelopes for asking parliamentary questions, which he has always denied.

Whatever the outcome of the allegations, this is yet more evidence of discord within Ukip.

Channel 4 News

Neil Hamilton questioned by UKIP over expense claims he has made while deputy chairman of the party as he steps down from selection in Basildon South

Former Tory MP is under scrutiny from the Ukip finance committee
He allegedly claimed expenses for staying at wife Christine’s London flat
Details emerged in leaked letter, which Hamilton described as ‘dirty tricks’
Calls for party’s national executive committee to take action
Says Channel Four saw leaked letter before he did
Details of claims emerged before Hamilton pulled out of Essex vote
Tells party members he only stood as a local councillor was excluded
Gave his backing to Kerry Smith, who was later selected for the seat

Neil Hamilton stepped down from Ukip selection tonight as it emerged he was facing questions over expenses claims he made as deputy chairman of the party.

The former Tory MP is under scrutiny from the Ukip finance committee over expenses he allegedly claimed for staying at his wife Christine’s London flat.

Details of the expenses claims emerged in a leaked letter before Mr Hamilton told party members at a hustings meeting in Essex that he would not be standing for election there.

He had been one of five candidates in the running to become Ukip’s candidate for the seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Mr Hamilton made the announcement before hustings began at the meeting, saying he had only stood because a local councillor, Kerry Smith, had been deselected as the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for the seat in October, only to be later reinstated.

Announcing his decision to step aside and backing of Mr Smith, Mr Hamilton told the BBC: ‘He should never has been deselected in the first place, in my opinion, and he will make an excellent member of parliament for Basildon.’

‘I would not have put my hat into the ring if I’d known that Kerry was going to be a candidate.

‘I didn’t know until I got here that his name was included in the ballot paper.’

Mr Smith was later selected for the seat.

Last month, Mr Hamilton withdrew from the race to become UKIP’s candidate for Boston and Skegness.

In response to the leaked letter, Mr Hamilton lashed out at party insiders over a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign being run against him.

And he called for the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to take action against those involved in the ‘black arts of selective briefing, misrepresentation and outright lies’.

Tonight, Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick revealed that Mr Hamilton had been sent a letter asking him to explain ‘each and ever mileage claim’ he has made, as well as details on lunches.

He was also asked to provide ‘an explanation of each stay that has been charged for your wife’s flat detailing why it was more convenient for you to stay there, rather than at your house’.

Mr Hamilton was also asked to state why he charged VAT on his salary from the party during his time as campaign manager in the run-up to the European elections, a job the letter said he was subsequently ‘removed’ from.

The letter, leaked to Channel 4 News, said the committee had been told that the arrangement had not been agreed.

‘We have seen the email trail and would like an explanation as to why you did not go back to those who agreed this salary and why you did not make it known that you intended to charge VAT on your salary by charging Ukip through a company for your services as this incurred Ukip in extra costs.

‘It is accepted that Ukip would have had to pay employer’s NI which is substantially less than VAT.

‘What is wrong here, is that you failed to go back to the management committee to clear the arrangement knowing that Ukip was at all times during this campaign short of money.’

The letter, which was sent today, signed off by telling Mr Hamilton: ‘Please do bear in mind that we receive at Lexdrum House handwritten letters from pensioners enclosing a £5 or a £10 note which they have managed to save so as to send it to Ukip and hence we need to make sure that all expenses are fully explainable.’

Mr Hamilton said tonight that Mr Crick had seen the letter before he had.

‘It is sad that some people in UKIP have adopted the black arts of selective briefing, misrepresentation and outright lies which Ukip rightly excoriates in the LibLabCon,’ he said.

‘It is time for the NEC, directly elected by the Party’s hard-working members, to cut out this cancer at the heart of Ukip which undermines its integrity.’

Mr Hamilton said he had predicted the correspondence about his expenses would be leaked and insisted he had been given assurances the inquiry into claims was a general one, rather than targeted at him.

He said: ‘Andrew Reid’s letter was written this afternoon and leaked to C4’s Michael Crick before I had even seen it.

The correspondence of which it is part, and which explains my position, has not been leaked and, therefore, a deliberately misleading view has been created, calculated to inflict maximum damage on me.’

He added: ‘The assistant treasurer of Ukip explicitly said to me at the outset that the expenses inquiry is general and not specific to me, arises because Ukip is short of funds and that there was no suggestion of any impropriety on my part.

‘The demand now for receipts, when I was explicitly told they were not necessary, may have been in included in this letter to convey an impression of malpractice on my part.

‘There are no grounds whatsoever of suspecting me of any impropriety.

‘Certain individuals have axes to grind against me and this is part of their continuing dirty tricks campaign.

‘Only a small handful of people could have leaked this letter and a glance at the names should make it perfectly obvious who the culprit or culprits are likely to be.

‘I have worked selflessly to advance UKIP’s interest for 12 years, entirely at my own expense until I became a party employee as European campaign director on September 1, 2013, an appointment which ceased on May 31, 2014 since when I have been unpaid but entitled to my expenses.’

Mr Hamilton’s bid to stand for Ukip in South Basildon and East Thurrock followed the withdrawal of Natasha Bolter from the race.

She had been embroiled in a row over claims of sexual harassment against a senior Ukip official, who has subsequently been suspended.

General secretary Roger Bird insisted he was not a ‘predator’ and was confident a full party inquiry would clear his name.

He published a file of personal messages which he says show he was in a relationship with Ms Bolter.

She says she felt pressured to sleep with the man overseeing candidate approvals in order to further her potential career in the Eurosceptic outfit.

Ms Bolter – who defected from Labour in a blaze of publicity and was introduced on stage at this year’s Ukip conference by Mr Bird – said that although he propositioned her, he was a ‘gentleman’ when she declined.

Mr Bird, who is single, insists however that they enjoyed a six-week consensual, sexual relationship that began a week after she had been approved to join the approved candidates list.

The former Conservative councillor, who quit the Tories in 2009 and switched to Ukip the following year, released part of what he said was a large collection of emails, texts and photographs which backed his side of the story.

He said the liaison began ‘some time after’ the candidate assessment and was ended by him on November 2.

Among the messages he said were received from Ms Bolter, one read: ‘But I love u and miss u and think u r sort of perfect.’

Another, apparently referring to the close of the Ukip conference in Doncaster, read: ‘R u still cool with me leaving suitcase here and coming home with u? Xx.’

Others expressed sentiments such as ‘really missing u bird’, ‘U r not coming back and accordingly my life will go back to a meaningless void” and “U r a really great mentor bird’.

‘Natasha Bolter and I were in a consensual relationship. This took place some time after her candidate assessment,’ Mr Bird said. ‘All of the suggestions that I was being some kind of predator and all the rest of it is entirely unsubstantiated by the facts.’

Ms Bolter agreed that she had sent a series of messages but told BBC2’s Newsnight: ‘None of them changes my story.’

‘I did not sleep with Roger Bird, end of,’ she said.

In an interview for the programme, she said: ‘When I said no, nothing happened. He’s a gentleman.

‘I never felt scared of him, I just felt pressured maybe, that if I did the right thing my career would go faster and further.”

‘He wasn’t taking me seriously as a candidate; he was looking at me as a sex object.’

She said the issue could have been dealt with by way of a ‘tap on the wrist’ if the party had acted more swiftly, and both parties continued.

But she suggested it was part of a wider issue.

‘We need to look at it in the greater picture: if they are not looking after a candidate that is going to stand in one of their target seats who is bringing forward serious allegations of sexism and racism and misogyny, are they really going to look after our electorate.’

Mr Bird said he ‘really could not even hazard a guess’ at why she might wish to invent a claim against him.

‘I suspect that perhaps she’s fallen out of love with Ukip for reasons unconnected to me,’ he said.

Daily Mail

Ukip’s suspended Roger Bird denies sexual harassment

I had ‘consensual relationship’ with former Ukip candidate, Natasha Bolter, says Roger Bird

Roger Bird, secretary general of Ukip, who was suspended after sexual harassment allegations.

Roger Bird, secretary general of Ukip, who was suspended after sexual harassment allegations.

The suspended general secretary of Ukip, Roger Bird, has fought back in the battle to save his career amid claims that he sexually harassed Natasha Bolter, who until this week was a prominent female member of the party.

Bird released 10 text messages that he claimed he had received from Bolter between September and November this year. These, he said proved that they had been in a consensual relationship.

Claims by Bolter, a former Labour supporter who addressed Ukip’s autumn conference, that Bird had sexually harassed her prompted his suspension from the party as she simultaneously resigned and ruled herself out of the running as Ukip’s parliamentary candidate for South Basildon, in Essex.

The text messages released by Bird include one saying “I am really missing u bird…” and another saying “I love u bird and wish u let me look after u. Hope u feel better xx” Bird told Channel 4’s political editor Michael Crick: “Natasha Bolter and I were in a consensual relationship between 18 September and 2 November, well after her admission to the list of approved candidates. “She was keen on me and I was keen on her. I have got emails and texts to show we had a relationship and I will be presenting these to the inquiry. In any relationship there are some texts of an intimate nature.”

However, Bolter denied on BBC2’s Newsnight that she had ever slept with Bird. She said: “If I would have slept with him, I would of probably had an easier time than I have had in Ukip. But … I joined a party and then I was thrown to the wolves.” In an interview conducted before details of her text exchanges had been released she said they “were not of an intimate nature.” She said she did send texts in which she put xx at the end – saying “that is a girl thing to do but I don’t think that is particularly intimate”.

She contended Bird had asked her to sleep with him but “when I said no, nothing happened. I think he was a gentleman. I never felt scared of him I just felt pressured that if I did the right thing my career would go further and faster. If I had slept with him I would probably have had an easier time in Ukip.”

She said her decision to raise her concerns was taken even though “it might ruin her career and her life”.

Ukip leaders were understood to have urged her as late as Sunday night to remain in the race to become a parliamentary candidate. The former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, once in line to be Ukip candidate for Boston and Skegness, is now in a strong position to win the party’s Basildon nomination at hustings on Wednesday evening.

Hamilton pulled out of the Boston race a month ago, leaving the nomination to be taken by a local candidate.

Bolter told the Times that Bird, who was involved in vetting candidates, made unwanted advances to her on the day she was interviewed after taking her to the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London.

She claimed that on a second occasion he called her for a meeting and bought her an expensive dress to wear to the same club, before telling her that she “now looked like a girl who could get in a taxi”.

 Natasha Bolter at the Ukip annual conference in Doncaster. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Natasha Bolter at the Ukip annual conference in Doncaster. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

She told the newspaper that he made further unwanted advances after a meal, which she again rejected.

After this incident, Bolter claims to have received anonymous emails saying she had slept with Bird and was “bullying” her, at which point she made a complaint to party officials.

Bird claims the two had a sexual relationship, which Bolter denies. Bird told the BBC: “We were in a relationship briefly, but that relationship developed well after she had been admitted to the approved candidates list, so her selection was not connected to this.”

He added: “Natasha Bolter’s candidate assessment was conducted entirely within the rules, as the party has already verified. Subsequent to that, Natasha Bolter and I were in a consensual relationship. I am not the head of candidates and I do not dictate which candidates get selected for which seats, nor would I try to, although I have advised and helped a number of candidates over the course of my years in the party.

“The party quite rightly has a duty to investigate complaints of a potentially serious nature and I feel they have acted entirely properly in doing that … It is important that the party has instigated a formal process and I hope that will soon be brought to a conclusion.”

Ukip released a statement saying Bird had been suspended but declined to go into details. It said: “Shortly after a claim came to light about the conduct of Mr Bird with regard to candidate selection, Ukip took action swiftly and decisively, including steps involving external human resources consultants, as well as following due process and the party’s constitution to the letter.

“ Unfortunately, Ukip has had to suspend Mr Bird pending a full investigation into allegations made against him. The party has acted swiftly and decisively and will not tolerate impropriety of any kind amongst its staff.”

The party said it had received a report from HR consultants at the weekend and acted quickly thereafter. The party’s disciplinary committee will decide before Christmas on what action to take.

Within Ukip’s membership there is a concern, but also some suspicion that a former Labour party member has joined the party recently only to make such serious claims so soon. Bolter was a high-profile recruit from the Tower Hamlets Labour party and made a star appearance at the party’s autumn conference, where she was introduced by Bird as a fellow Oxford PPE graduate.

She said then: “Ukip is a fair party, respecting all nationalities and genders. We are an equal party. We have women at centre-stage, just look how many MEPs we have. The women in Ukip have flourished equally alongside our male counterparts. We are seen for our intelligence and aptitude. We are seen for our hard graft. We are respected for our contribution. I want to be a candidate for Ukip and I want to campaign to win but I want to be selected on merit.”

She has now told the Times that she encountered racism in every Ukip branch she visited, as well as regular sexism.

Bird previously held the role of chairman of Ukip in south-east England and was selected last month as a parliamentary candidate for the seat of Cities of London and Westminster.

The party has recently been under scrutiny over the way some local candidates have been deselected, potentially to make way for bigger names. Bird was involved in at least one of these controversies, when he told the Portsmouth News that the removal of Douglas Denny in Portsmouth South was a “routine event”.

His LinkedIn page says he has been general secretary of the party since July and was previously a finance director and auditor.

The Guardian