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You Winston, you lose some: Are Ukip planning to drop Croydon's Winston McKenzie?


WINSTON McKenzie has admitted his "career is at stake" after a senior Ukip source told the Advertiser he could be deselected as the party's candidate for Croydon North and asked to step down as chairman of his branch.

It is understood the party's Commonwealth spokesman may be forced out – potentially as early as the end of the month – after losing the confidence of local members and senior figures within Ukip.

Mr McKenzie has been at the centre of a series of issues within his Croydon North and Lambeth branch, including a spat with two committee members, accusations of financial impropriety, and the closing of his branch office on the advice of the police.

The infighting is apparently the final straw for Ukip's leadership, which appears to have finally lost patience with the outspoken politician who, while campaigning in 2012, said gay people adopting children was akin to child abuse and declared to the nation's press earlier this year that Croydon was a "dump".

A well-connected source told the Advertiser that Mr McKenzie would "definitely" lose either his position as branch chairman or as Parliamentary candidate before next May's General Election, and potentially both.

Winston insists he still has the support of party leader Nigel Farage but admitted it had been suggested to him that he stand down as chairman. "My political career is at stake," he said this week.

Mr McKenzie has become one of Ukip's most well-known figures following high-profile media appearances – including being invited on BBC's Newsnight – and the infamous "carnival" in Croydon town centre in May.

According to our source, however, the show could soon be over.

"There's a groundswell of opinion to get rid of Winston as chairman, and indeed as a candidate, from among branch members and there is an opinion high up in the party that he has to get rid of one of those jobs," said the source. " It would be for the good of the party if it were both.

"The question is whether it happens this year or next year – so this month or January."

Mr McKenzie retained the support of key Ukip figures – crucially Mr Farage – after making derogatory comments about gay people during the Croydon North by-election in 2012.

He also received their backing after organising the party's disastrous "carnival" ahead of May's council elections.

Despite these public own-goals, it is the issues within his Lambeth and Croydon North branch which have called his future into question.

They centre around a £1,000 donation from a member and an allegation that Mr McKenzie and treasurer Marianne Bowness, a former mayoress of Croydon, misappropriated the funds.

Winston said proper paperwork had not been filed because both he and Ms Bowness had suffered family problems at the time, including the death of his father, but insisted all the cash had been used for election expenses.

The investigators' report found no evidence to suggest the money had been used inappropriately but detailed a number of areas where proper procedures had not been followed. Mr McKenzie and Ms Bowness survived the subsequent vote 11-8.

The former boxer has also been embroiled in a bitter dispute with two members of the executive group, who he suspended for allegedly disrupting meetings and questioning what happened to the donation.

"They have been causing considerable disturbances," explained Mr McKenzie. "They have disrupted every meeting we've had. They're out of order.

"They're bringing the whole branch into disrepute and poisoning various people against me."

One of the aggrieved parties, an 83-year-old man, was upset that Mr McKenzie had told other members about his mental health problems.

"I told him to have some time off because I couldn't put up with his moods. He took umbrage with that," said Winston.

"Then he took grave offence when I wrote to members to say I was fed up of all his problems.

"Yes, I wrote to members and told them he was unwell and it would be best if he left the branch. He was very upset and, obviously, so were some members [who said] 'Why would you mention his medication? How embarrassing!'

"I only repeated what he continually told all of us, so I didn't see it as being offensive. I was genuinely concerned for the old boy's health."

Mr McKenzie did eventually have the pensioner moved to the Croydon Central and South branch of Ukip. He fell out with another committee member after accusing him of accessing his Twitter account to send messages against the council's plans to introduce 20mph zones.

Mr McKenzie said the issues with both men, and disruption caused by protestors dumping manure on the doorstep, had led police to advise the owner of the branch's office to bar Ukip from using the premises. He is looking for an alternative venue.

Despite the problems, Mr McKenzie insists he retains enough support to carry on.

"I get on very well with all the top people in the party," he said. "They have immense respect for me. They're not losing patience. As far as Nigel Farage is concerned I bring a lot to the table.

"In terms of the branch, I suppose I retain 50 per cent. Maybe 60. It looks a bit of mess from the outside but I've been vindicated. I've done my time."

Asked about the suggestion he could be asked to step down, either as chairman or otherwise, Mr McKenzie said the possibility had been suggested to him in recent weeks but he vowed to continue.

"The regional officer did say, with all this noise going on, why don't I just step down [as chairman] and let them get on with it," he explained.

"He said it was just a suggestion but that it might save all the aggro and let me get on with my campaign."

The Advertiser approached Ukip central office this week and asked about Mr McKenzie's future, including whether he would be the Croydon North candidate next May. We have yet to receive a reply. 

'Winston has an enormous amount of baggage' 

OUR Ukip source said that senior figures within the party have lost patience with Winston.

"He survived previous mistakes because at the time we were being made out to be the BNP in blazers. One of the things you can't say about Winston is that he's white British, so therefore he's certainly not BNP.

"I think there was also a more subtle reason in that, in some respects, Nigel and Winston are very much the same person, in that they are extroverts with strong opinions. 

"Nigel has learned to temper it so it helps the party. Winston doesn't have that ability."

Though Mr McKenzie, once described as the most influential black politician in Britain by Respect's Lee Jasper, enjoyed backing from Mr Farage, there are those within the party who have been frustrated with his antics for several years.

Now it appears that the dissent is spreading to such an extent that his position locally is under serious threat.

Asked whether there would be a development before the election, our source said: "Oh good God yes. Definitely. The question is whether it is this year or next year – this month or January.

"I would doubt whether he would be the chairman or prospective candidate for Croydon North, or indeed anywhere, come May."

Questioned as to whether that would be for the good of the party, the source said: "Yes, definitely.

"Winston has an enormous amount of baggage. Certain people in the party were prepared to accept that, but it has come to a head now."

You Winston, you lose some: Are Ukip planning to drop Croydon's Winston McKenzie?

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