Ukip's Bird cleared of impropriety
Ukip general secretary Roger Bird has been cleared of impropriety following an inquiry into allegations that he sexually harassed a would-be parliamentary candidate.
Following the inquiry by an independent expert, the party said it accepted Mr Bird's statement that a relationship between him and Natasha Bolter was "consensual" and agreed that his actions did not compromise the integrity of its candidate selection process.
But it was mutually agreed that he will leave as general secretary because of the "unfortunate publicity" surrounding Ms Bolter's complaint.
A Ukip spokesman said: " Ukip has concluded its inquiry into allegations regarding its general secretary, Roger Bird. The inquiry was conducted by an independent HR consultancy, to ensure that these serious allegations were fully, impartially and carefully investigated.
"As a result of the investigation, the party accepts Mr Bird's statement that the personal relationship between him and Ms Bolter was consensual and found no evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassment.
"In addition, the party is satisfied that Mr Bird's actions did not compromise the integrity of its candidate selection process, and indeed that the circumstances of the case underline the robust nature of the party's assessment, approval and candidate vetting system.
"Given the unfortunate publicity stimulated by media speculation, it has been mutually agreed to bring Mr Bird's fixed term contract of employment to an earlier conclusion. The party would like to thank Mr Bird for his contribution and valued service over the past five months."
Mr Bird said: "I am very glad that the party has investigated and dismissed the allegations of sexual harassment and any impropriety regarding the selection of Ms Bolter as a candidate.
"I wish Ukip every success in the election campaign. I remain a member and keen supporter of the party and I will continue to make every effort to help our candidates to victory in May."
Mr Bird was suspended from his party post on December 7 after Ms Bolter claimed that he had propositioned her after interviewing her as a prospective parliamentary candidate.
The 35-year-old teacher had defected from Labour in a blaze of publicity and was fighting a selection battle for the winnable seat of South Basildon, but pulled out of hustings shortly before news of her allegations became public.
Former Conservative councillor Mr Bird, 41 , who is single, insisted that they enjoyed a six-week consensual sexual relationship that began a week after she had been approved to join the approved candidates list. As the inquiry got under way, he released a set of text messages which appeared to indicate that they had been involved in an intimate relationship.
However, Ms Bolter insisted in a TV interview that she had never slept with him.
The row was the most high-profile of a series of controversies to embroil the Eurosceptic party, which is riding high in the polls, over the past few weeks.
Mr Bird said he and the party had agreed it would be best if he served in a voluntary capacity.
He told Channel 4 News: "I'm delighted to have been cleared of the allegations."
Asked if he was delighted to have lost his job, he replied: "No, I don't look at it as losing my job. I have always been an enthusiastic volunteer and hope to remain so.
"I have never sought to gain from the party financially in that sense. I'm happy to contribute to it instead."