UKIP is looking for its fifth leader in 18 months after Henry Bolton lost a no-confidence motion at an extraordinary general meeting of party members.
Members backed the motion by 867 votes to 500, giving him a 37 per cent share.
Bolton had been clinging on to the leadership after a revolt by several senior party figures over his relationship with model Jo Marney. He admitted he still had “strong affections” for the 25-year-old, who resigned from the party following allegations she had sent racist text messages about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle.
Despite losing the motion, Bolton is still eligible to stand again in the forthcoming leadership contest, which will be held within the next 90 days with London MEP Gerrard Batten acting as interim leader in the meantime.
Bolton said he was “slightly disappointed” to have lost the no confidence vote, but that he was “not finished with politics”, adding that he feared the result would see UKIP “taken off the battlefield” of British politics for months.
He added: “I think it’s going to be difficult to unite the party, what we have effectively had is a rejection of a new draft constitution, a reorganisation and indeed a new way of doing politics.”
He was elected in September in the wake of UKIP’s disastrous performance in last year’s general election. The party’s national executive committee expressed no confidence in him last month, triggering the ballot.
Outgoing chairman Paul Oakden said: “Henry Bolton has been removed by the democratic decision of the membership.”
Bolton had replaced Paul Nuttall, who quit after the general election – which saw UKIP’s vote share shrink to 1.8 per cent from 12.6 per cent in 2015.
Prior to the vote ex-leader Nigel Farage had backed Bolton, saying that, “for all his faults”, removing him would hasten UKIP’s path to “irrelevance”.
Farage announced his first resignation on 4 July 2016, saying his “political ambition has been achieved” by the Brexit vote. Diane James lasted less than three weeks after being elected in September 2016. Farage returned as interim leader in October 2016.