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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Will Brexit sound the financial death knell for UKIP?

There is an interesting piece on Buzzfeed by Jim Waterson, which underlines how much the anti-European, so-called establishment-busting UKIP is reliant on European funds and establishment support for its survival.

Warerson says that concerns have been raised about the state of UKIP’s finances following the EU referendum, with major donors defecting to the Conservatives or threatening to form a new party now UKIP has achieved its main objective.

But, to make matters worse, the party's reliance on EU funding makes it even more likely to be cast into oblivion. He says that many support staff and a large proportion of the party’s most prominent individuals are reliant on the EU for their income. That money will vanish in 2019 if the government sticks to its planned timetable for Brexit:

Collectively UKIP’s 22 MEPs can claim up to €6,072,000 (£5,400,000) a year from the European parliament to fund staff costs, with limited scrutiny of how it is spent.

Public records reveal that at least 76 different individuals are currently listed as employed by UKIP’s MEPs using European funds, all working on behalf of the party’s politicians.

There is no suggestion UKIP has broken the strict restrictions on using the funds for domestic political purposes, and some of these simply are simply constituency case workers. However, the majority of these employees have some personal connection to UKIP and many have social media profiles showing their campaigning on behalf of the party.

Among the staff employed by UKIP MEPs are prominent UKIP volunteers, councillors, regional organisers, and parliamentary candidates who may find it harder to dedicate as much time to the party if they were forced to find another job.

UKIP’s 22 MEPs also benefit from EU-funded salaries worth €95,000 a year (£84,484) and expenses, giving them the freedom to campaign for UKIP.

Waterson says that to make matters worse, UKIP does not currently pay its leader from party funds, since Nigel Farage and his predecessors have traditionally survived on their EU-funded MEP’s salaries and outside earnings. This raises the question of how the party intends to pay its leaders in the future:

As a result, whoever wins the second UKIP leadership election of the year will have to battle to raise funds from donors to cover both campaign costs and, potentially, their own salary.

UKIP’s media profile could also be hit by the loss of the EU jobs. Of the eight UKIP politicians who have appeared on BBC Question Time this year, six rely on European parliament funding for their main job by virtue of being MEPs or working for MEPs.

Meanwhile, the loss of EU funding will also see the party lose a number of policy and communications staff. Hermann Kelly, who is frequently referred to in the media as a “UKIP spokesperson”, is technically employed by the European parliament’s EFDD grouping.

The EFDD is nominally a pan-European political party, but in reality consists of UKIP, Italy’s Five Star Movement, and a handful of fringe candidates from other nations. The arrangement was criticised after some EFDD funding was used to finance a Farage speaking tour and for security costs at major events in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Earlier this week UKIP was forced to deny reports in The Telegraph that it had a £800,000 “black hole” in its finances and owed substantial sums of money. However, the party’s most recent accounts for 2015 reveal the party “had no financial reserves” and was “dependent upon contributions from donors” to meet ongoing costs, while the most recent Electoral Commission figures show the party owes £470,000 in loans.

The situation has reached the point where UKIP does not currently even have a press office.

Waterson points out that domestically, UKIP's failure to secure sufficient numbers of full-time elected representatives will cause them further difficulties. He points out that the only prominent UKIP politicians certain to continue to receive full-time salaries from politics after 2019 are the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell; its two London assembly representatives; and seven members of the Welsh assembly, including Neil Hamilton.

Hamilton himself employs his wife Christine as his personal assistant on a salary estimated by Private Eye at around £25.000 per year. His chief of staff is Robin Hunter-Clarke who is a Lincolnshire County Councillor, living in Skegness. His wife Melanie is also employed by Hamilton.

Another UKIP AM, Mark Reckless chairs the Assembly's Climate Change Committee for which he receives £13,000 on top of his £64,000 salary whilst at the same time working up to 20 hours a week in the UK Parliament for UKIP's sole MP, Douglas Carswell. He employs his wife as his special adviser at a wage estimated by the Eye at £30,000 a year.

The great UKIP gravy train is rolling on, for another couple of years at least.
> UKIP does not currently pay its leader from party funds,
He or she will be able to live on appearance fees from BBC.

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