UKIP leader Henry Bolton has come under further pressure to resign, after West Midlands UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge announced he was standing down as a party spokesman.
Mr Etheridge quit as the party’s sports spokesman and issued a statement urging party members to demand that Mr Bolton be forced out of his job.
The row follows reports that Bolton’s girlfriend, Jo Marney, made racist remarks about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle.
The UKIP leader has attempted to end the controversy by dumping her, saying that the relationship was “obviously quite incompatible” with his position as party chief and the “romantic” side of their relationship had ended.
But he rejected calls to resign, saying: “This will be a question for the party so it’s up to the party what happens in relation to my leadership, I’m not going to resign.”
Mr Etheridge announced on Twitter that he was quitting as the party’s sports spokesman, a role the cricket-loving MEP has held since October 2017.
And he said he was calling on UKIP party members to petition the party’s National Executive Committee for Mr Bolton’s removal.
Mr Etheridge said: “All we get day after day, despite the hard work of our activists, is talk about issues with his personal life, which, frankly, I don’t care about.
“But the way he is handling it is unprofessional.
“He’s a political lightweight, completely out of his depth and, frankly, he needs to move away.”
The Mail On Sunday printed texts it said had been sent by Ms Marney, including use of the word “Negro” and a message reading “This is Britain, not Africa” during a discussion about the royal engagement.
Mr Bolton said his critics had used Ms Marney to attack him and said he would “stand by” her despite the relationship ending.
“One of the worrying aspects about this on a political level is that people have used Jo – and they have been able to, of course, because of her comments – in order to attack me,” he said.
“These are people who have tried in the past to attack me, have found no way of doing it, so now they are going at it through this.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that “however appalling and insulting” the comments were “I honestly don’t believe that those are her core beliefs”.
Ms Marney was “utterly devastated” by what had happened and “I’m going to stand by her and the family in terms of trying to put her life back together”.
“This is not a cold parting of the ways,” he said.