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Former Ukip leader's girlfriend Jo Marney: We all make mistakes

She's the 25-year-old sometime model who ran off with Henry Bolton and sent Ukip into meltdown with a barrage of racist texts. Here, Charlotte Edwardes talks to Jo Marney about her own political appetite

Public outrage: Jo Marney was branded a racist over comments made about Meghan Markle
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Jo Marney sits like a bloke in the pub, square in front of a large drink, and she talks like a bloke in the pub. "I want a full Brexit: total control over our laws, our borders, our government..." And as it happens, one of her favourite pastimes is "going to the pub", with her boyfriend, the former Ukip leader Henry Bolton, whose affair with Marney cost him his job, his wife and two small children in January.

It was not the affair that broke Bolton, of course, extra-marital sex is just about compulsory for Brexiteers, but the fact that Marney (25) was branded a racist.

In private texts, she wrote that Meghan Markle would "taint our royal family" with "her seed" by marrying Prince Harry and that Marney herself "wouldn't with a negro" because they were "ugly". She has since apologised, and does so repeatedly while I'm with her, although always with the diluting adjunct, "we all make mistakes".

Bolton, meanwhile, was thrilled to be shtupping someone 30 years younger, chortling in television interviews that he had "things to sort out in my private life". In January there were endless sightings of the pair - having dinner in Westminster, looking haunted on the Tube, simpering on This Morning's sofa. These added to the fat portfolio Marney uploaded on her social media: her in a jersey minidress and sheer stockings, Bolton's arm snaked around her waist; her in tweeds and cravat, mugging with Bolton, a scoffing Homer Simpson lookalike in a waxed jacket.

When Ukip balked at her texts, Bolton claimed to have ended the "romantic side" of their relationship. But Ukip ended its own romance with Bolton, booting him from the party. She snorts derisively, saying Ukip now is "anti-Islam and that's it" and "full of Tommy Robinson supporters".

Bolton is launching OneNation (one word because One Nation was already copyrighted by an Islamic charity), which Marney describes as filling the much-needed void in the political centre - by which she means "the people left in the gap between the far-Right Ukip and the Tories". Could she ever vote Conservative? "No. But what I've read about Boris I like very much."

Today I've met Marney in Chucs at the Serpentine. Several venues, including Christopher's in Covent Garden and Lanes of London, turned us away because of her "controversial" views. It's only afterwards that I learn Bolton has been hovering outside for the entire two hours, anxious as a parent.

Marney describes herself as a model. Certainly she is striking - bleached and androgynous with one brown eye and one blue contact lens (asked if it's real, she says, "I never tell").

But she's awkward company, fidgeting in her chair and rolling her head like a bored toddler. She orders spaghetti, and stabs it with a fork, saying: "This is kind of hard to eat." Two large glasses of white present no such challenge but she insists she has "cut down".

Nigel Farage

The drinking, like the Tattersall shirts and trilbies, is very Nigel Farage. He is "a big idol" ("along with my mum and my granddad") and drew her to Ukip, initially because of his "policies on animals". She wasn't interested in the EU, "until I listened to Nigel", and joined the party two days after the referendum.

She met Bolton at a Ukip Christmas lunch last year. "There was no major initial attraction," she says. "We had a brief chat and a photo. He said: 'You look very tall in your high heels', and I said, 'You look very short'. And he said, 'Big things come in small packages'."

She giggles. "I was taken aback but it made me laugh. I felt very comfortable." Later she noticed he'd "poked" her on Facebook. "And so we started messaging." Their first date was on Boxing Day in a pub, they "hit it off immediately".

"He's quite fun. You see someone on the telly and think, 'look at that dry boring old git', but you get to know someone and they are completely different."

Things might have plodded on, but for two factors, which conspired to create weeks of explosive tabloid coverage. First, Bolton was married with small kids (he also has an adult daughter, older than Marney).

Second, Marney, several weeks earlier, had drunk-bantered over text with "a Right-wing Tory guy, Iranian bloke, who I considered a friend".

He was winding her up about Ukip being "Left-wing" and her texts were, she claims, a parody of an ultra-racist Ukipper. The second her relationship with Bolton became public, the texts did too.

Marney insists she's not a racist: "It was absolutely silly," but equally she's own worst enemy. On any subject her views sound like an off-the-peg provocation. For instance, feminism "is a struggle to understand" (because "we have the same rights as men these days"); #MeToo is "silly" ("If a man slaps your bum in a bar, tell him to b***** off. He'll say 'sorry love' and go away"); harassment in offices "works two ways" ("there's always an office flirt and more often than not it's a woman").

Wolf-whistling is "a compliment", people who slept with someone for a film part are "silly" (although, "obviously rape is an awful thing"). She believes that to celebrate the structure-breaking achievements of, say, Sadiq Khan or Barack Obama, is "putting them on a pedestal".

Bolton must be ecstatic - she's basically a bloke from the Fifties with a 25-year-old woman's body.

She even undermines herself. One minute she asserts she doesn't want to "portray myself as a victim", the next she's whingeing that she's been called "topless model".

"I've never been a topless model. I've got some skimpy photos, but Kate Moss does pictures with her top off and she's not a topless model," she says. "And that's what really upset my mum. Obviously the racist bit upset her as well. But then I said what was said, so, okay."

At this point I want to scream: "Jo, no one cares about the 'topless' rubbish. They care about the racism." But she reverts to script. "We've all said offensive things. We're all human. If I'd killed someone, I don't think I could've got any more attention." She adds: "I don't understand."

She also doesn't understand that comparing her ordeal to Anne Frank's in an article she wrote for the Mail on Sunday might both offend and detract from her own hell. "I didn't mean I was a Jewish girl that was going to be captured by the Nazis," she protests. "The situation was similar. I couldn't go outside or near windows."

She was reviled the length of the country. At one point Bolton feared she was close to suicide. "I was drinking far too much. I'd dread waking up. Every day the Ukip press officers would say: 'This is going to be in the paper' and I'd spend the whole day worrying." In the evenings, they would telephone the bar under his block to check they had closed, then descend for an after hours drink. "We might be spotted otherwise. Everyone has phones with cameras," she says.

Independent thinking: Jo Marney with former Ukip leader Henry Bolton

"I had a nocturnal life. Henry went to the supermarket. People thought I was in Disneyland." It's not a bad metaphor. On one occasion she was smuggled out in a suitcase. Other times she disguised herself in heavy coats and hats. "Sometimes I looked like a teenage boy lolloping along. We are actually the same size, so I have gone out wearing his suits. We swap clothes. Henry's very slim actually." Bolton even wore her leopard print underpants to the meeting to discuss the future of his leadership.

Gradually domestic scenes have overtaken the haughty pouts and poses on her Instagram. But is she mature enough to be in love? They fight "like cat and dog" she says. He hates her wearing baseball caps because, "they make me look too young and he feels embarrassed". But they also seem to be inseparable and she sees few other friends.

Her mum Jayne (61) is unfazed by Bolton's age, but "there's a few little niggles", Marney admits. "You know, the whole mother-in-law getting annoyed thing." Does she want to marry? "Maybe, yeah." Kids? "Children are not my thing, I like animals."

When I ask about Bolton's estranged wife Tatiana and children, she says: "It's sad when a relationship breaks down. I did feel sorry, you've got to as a woman - we've all been there. Obviously it's harder with kids, but you need to be realistic. We don't live in a fairytale world, people split up. My parents divorced when I was about three. Kids that age, they are very resilient."

While she saw her dad "all the time", it's her mum she talks about. She was chief housing officer at the local council for 30 years, winning show jumping competitions in her spare time. Her grandparents played a big role in her upbringing (the racist texting occurred when she was mourning her grandfather's death), which she describes as horses and Jack Russells. "I was up to my eyeballs in mud, dirt and dogs," she says. At school she was "quiet", "a bit of a loner", who loved sport and the Rolling Stones (she's had a selfie with Ronnie Wood).

At 15 she started modelling - "I applied for things on the internet" - and wanted to act, but ended up studying journalism at college. Most recently, she modelled for a PFM Foundation, which fundraises for street children in Africa. As far as I can see she was the only white model. For money, she and Bolton want to flip flats. Apparently no one has told them Brexit caused the housing market to stagnate.

But her future she sees in politics. "I am still only young, so I'm still learning. I'm trying to listen. I've made mistakes in the past and I've held my hands up. Henry's teaching me and so are other people."

Would she stand? "I would like to be more involved as a political personality rather than as a partner, yes." Well, stranger things have happened.


Belfast Telegraph

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