A SENIOR Ukip official has been accused of sexually harassing one of the party’s most high-profile women candidates.
The party has suspended general secretary Roger Bird - who is responsible for vetting candidates - over allegations of impropriety.
Ukip confirmed that an investigation had been launched into the claims made by Natasha Bolter - who defected to Ukip from Labour in a blaze of publicity.
Ms Bolter told the Times that Mr Bird propositioned her after inviting her for dinner at his London club on the day he interviewed her as a prospective candidate.
“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?’”
Ms Bolter denies any romantic or sexual contact took place, but Mr Bird told the BBC the pair had a brief relationship “well after” she was admitted on to the list of approved would-be MPs.
The corporation said Mr Bird denied the allegations made against him.
Mr 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 that.”
Ukip disputed reports that Ms Bolter had now quit the party after the Times reported she had pulled out of the hustings to become the party’s parliamentary candidate for the winnable seat of South Basildon.
A spokesman said her claims were being taken “extremely seriously”.
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.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, 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.