Well, that was a close run thing.
I spent most of yesterday wondering whether after nearly a quarter of a century, my journey with UKIP was over. Be in no doubt that if the anti-Islam candidate Anne Marie Waters had won the party leadership, there would have been a mass walk-out of which I would have been a part.
Mercifully, sense prevailed, and disaster has been averted. Henry Bolton is our new leader and with him comes new hope for UKIP at a time when the party’s voice needs to be heard more than ever – a voice that was effectively mute over the past year as we lurched from crisis to crisis.
“Henry who?” I hear you say.
OK, I’m the first to acknowledge that Henry Bolton does not yet have a public profile. But he has something far more important that the other party leaders don’t – real life experience.
His career in the army, the police, the United Nations and the European commission show that he is a rounded individual with depth.
More than that, this is a man who in 2013 was honoured for services to international security and stabilisation in Afghanistan and who, before then, received an award for outstanding bravery while serving with Thames Valley Police.
At a time when the two main parties are led by people who lack the ability to stick to the course the country voted for on Brexit, Britain needs someone with the sort of courage that comes naturally to Henry Bolton and I have a feeling the patriotically-minded voters in this country will like him.
Indeed, not only did he get my vote, but I am more than prepared to help him. He will need my support.
I do worry that so many UKIP members voted for a leadership candidate in Anne Marie Waters who has such extreme views on the religion of Islam. The disappearance of the BNP has clearly led a hard-right faction to join UKIP and to try and take us in the wrong direction. In all my years as leader, that is exactly what I fought against.
In fact, former BNP members were not even allowed to join the party under my watch. While our opponents, including some who work for the BBC, always tried to label us as racists, this allegation was simply untrue.
In order to restore the kind of order UKIP previously enjoyed, the best solution now would be for those people like Waters to go off and do their own thing, perhaps even to start a new party if they wish.
Intolerance of the sort she peddles has no place in UKIP – a point, by the way, which Jeremy Corbyn has failed to make in any meaningful way when dealing with Labour’s anti-semitism problem.
The internal management structures of UKIP are a shambles.
It has a national executive which is incapable of making sensible political decisions. That they even allowed Waters to be a candidate, considering she was banned from standing at the general election, underlines my argument. Henry will have a huge job of work to do in order to professionalise UKIP, but he needs to do it as the political opportunities out there are now clear.
At the general election this year, UKIP and Brexit voters thought the party had done its job, had succeeded in its aims and was no longer necessary. Since then, our political classes have steadily progressed towards the great Brexit betrayal and there is now impatience and anger.
Over 3.5m Labour voters supported Brexit. Many were reassured by Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto, which made clear Labour was for leaving the single market and ending the free movement of people. Now, all of that is gone, as Labour entrenches itself as the party of the London elite and becomes more pro-EU with every week that goes by.
Bolton’s first target audience must be the patriotic old Labour voters who’ve been treated with contempt by their leaders.
As for Theresa May, her abject performance in Florence proves that the Remainers in her cabinet are dictating events. While I am pleased to see Boris Johnson fighting back, this does have the appearance of being a rearguard action. Tory voters want someone to make the case that we did not vote for immigration to continue into the next general election, or for billions of pounds to be handed over to the European commission.
Our “Brexit means Brexit” Prime Minister has let us all down badly and we need a rejuvenated UKIP to start applying some pressure.
The journey for Henry Bolton will not be an easy one, but he will be a calm presence with no hint of intolerance or extremism. He brings fresh hope to a party that nearly died yesterday. Those who care about the future of Britain should be grateful for that.