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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In it for the money? The latest UKIP scandal

Today's Times highlights the way that UKIP use the candidate process to raise money for the party. The paper quotes the party's former deputy leader, who alleges that UKIP are forcing MEPs to donate large sums and threaten to bar those who refuse from standing again.

They say tbat Ex-Ukip insiders also raised concerns before this month’s European elections that the party favour wealthy MEP candidates.

They say that an analysis of Electoral Commission records showed that two leading candidates for the May 22 poll, and the partner of a third, donated or lent the party tens of thousands of pounds about the time they were selected for safe seats.

No new MEP candidates from the Labour or Conservative party have made declarable donations in the past four years. Three Liberal Democrat candidates who have donated large amounts have not been given winnable seats:

The revelations come amid further controversy for Ukip. Yesterday a British Asian former chairman of its youth wing resigned from the party, claiming that it “deliberately attracts the racist vote”, while Janice Atkinson, a prospective MEP, provoked derision by asking police to arrest protesters who called Ukip members “fascists”.

David Campbell-Bannerman, Ukip’s former deputy leader, left the party in 2011 after repeatedly warning Nigel Farage and other top officials about its “overt [link] between financial contributions and selection to a public elected office”. He said that it was “potentially very dangerous” and could be seen as being “cash for Euroseats”.

In his resignation letter, leaked to The Times by a former Ukip branch chairman, Mr Campbell-Bannerman raised concerns including that “Ukip MEPs will only be there in future to keep the party solvent or to pay lip service to the leader”.

Mr Campbell-Bannerman, now a Conservative MEP, accused Ukip of drawing up plans to field four MEP candidates simply so they could “pay all their salary to the party” without carrying out any work.

He wrote that his “urgent calls” for legal advice had gone unheeded and warned that “any future Ukip MEPs beyond 2014 will either be very rich or just sycophantic placemen/women of the leader”. Mr Campbell-Bannerman said yesterday that he stood by his comments.

All Ukip MEPs elected this month will have signed a “code of conduct” forcing them to donate 10 per cent of their salary, equivalent to about €10,000 (£8,000) a year, to the party. Any MEP not fulfilling this promise risks being “blackballed”, according to emails sent by Alan Bown, one of Ukip’s biggest donors.

Mr Campbell-Bannerman was primarily concerned with pressure applied to sitting MEPs. However, a number of new candidates likely to win seats at the European Parliament on May 22 have also given generously to the party.

Most parties ask their elected members to make a regular donation to the coffers, but this is the first time I have heard allegations that contributions determine the probability of somebody being given a winnable seat.
UKIP's response would no doubt be: "would you prefer the state to fund political parties' election campaigns?".

Looking at the implications of UKIP's scheme, I would say the answer has to be "yes".
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