Suspended Ukip official insists sexual harassment was “a consensual relationship”

Natasha Bolter
Natasha Bolter
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A UKIP sex row has seen the party’s General Secretary forced to defend himself against claims he sexually harassed a leading candidate.

Roger Bird - who is responsible for vetting candidates - has been suspended on full pay over allegations of impropriety.

Ukip has said it is investigating claims made by Natasha Bolter - who defected to Ukip from Labour in a blaze of publicity.

Ms Bolter said that Mr Bird propositioned her after inviting her for dinner at his London club on the day he interviewed her as a prospective candidate.

She said: “He asked if we could continue the interview at the Oxford and Cambridge Club that evening,” she was quoted as saying.

“I thought it was because I was nervous. (But) when I went I could see that he wasn’t really interested in what I had to offer as a politician.

“He took me down to the snooker room and said ‘I find you very attractive’. He said ‘Would you like to come home with me?’”

On a second occasion, Ms Bolter claimed, Mr Bird bought her a £169 Ted Baker dress and shoes, because she was wearing jeans and was not smart enough to eat at his club, telling her she “now looked like a girl who could get in a taxi.”

She claimed that at this second meeting, after a heavy meal, Mr Bird “leant over and tried to kiss me.”

“It was obvious that he wanted to sleep with me,’ she said. “He said, ‘I can help you, I’m supporting you.’”

Last night Mr Bird said he would be revealing to party investigators emails and texts which he claims proves he was in a consensual relationship with the high-profile candidate, including a message in which he says the candidates tells him “I love you”.

Mr Bird told Channel 4 News: “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, with interest on both sides.

“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.”

He later added: “I have done nothing wrong. I am a single man, she is also single, we are both single people who conducted a consensual relationship outside the office.

“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.”

Ms Bolter has denied any romantic or sexual contact took place, despite Mr Bird claiming the pair had a brief relationship “well after” she was admitted on to the list of approved would-be MPs.

In a statement, Ukip said Mr Bird had been suspended on December 7 pending a full investigation into the allegations relating to candidate selection.

“Shortly after a claim came to light about the conduct of Mr Bird with regard to candidate selection, the UK Independence Party 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,” the statement said.

A Ukip spokesman added: “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.”

Mr Bird had been Ukip general secretary since July 2014 and had previously been finance director at Astrum Education and Alpha Plus Group. He has also served as the party’s chairman in the South East.

A former Conservative councillor in Wandsworth, south London, Mr Bird quit the Tories in 2009 and switched to Ukip a year later.

He was selected as a parliamentary candidate for the seat of Cities of London and Westminster last month.

Ms Bolter, who had been due to stand for Ukip in Basildon, Essex, at the General Election has now quit the party.

Party leader Nigel Farage has yet to comment on the internal party investigation.