This morning’s edition of The Times reported (£) that Nigel Farage could face a probe into claims, apparently lodged by a former UKIP official, that nearly £60,000 of ‘missing’ European Union funds have been paid into his personal bank account. Mr Farage denies the allegations in strong terms and has invited EU officials to examine his expenses.
This is not the first time that UKIP has faced allegations about fiddled expenses. Yet none of the mud has stuck. There are two reasons for this: nothing has been proved and few people appear to understand how the European parliamentary expenses system works (there is, for example, a less than clear distinction between expenses and allowances). One could hear a fine example of the latter on the Today programme this morning, when Nigel Farage corrected Justin Webb’s line of questioning:
‘We do not claim expenses for running offices or any other activity that takes place within our member state the United Kingdom. We get an allowance, a fixed rate allowance and we can spend it how we see fit. It is £3,580 a month and that is given to MEPs and we can spend it how we want to – we don’t have to prove receipts for it or anything like that…I said from the beginning that I would use the money… from the European Union to fight against Britain’s membership of the European Union and to do so with the rule of the Parliament.’
Webb protested; but Farage simply sailed on while railing against the iniquitous ‘Establishment’ (whatever that might be) and its newspaper of choice, The Times.
(Incidentally, Guido reports that the UKIP official who apparently made the allegation is now saying that he was misquoted by The Times, which has led UKIP to alter its line of defence to: ‘sloppy’ journalism.)
Farage’s argument that UKIP is working towards the abolition of EU expenses through the withdrawal of Britain’s membership of the EU depends on the probity and commitment of his members – and a lot of UKIP MEPs seem to tire of the strenuous work required. As Sean Kippin and Richard Berry revealed here earlier, 8 UKIP MEPs have jumped ship since 2004, which accounts for 62% of the total number of British MEPs to defect over the period. This fact does not scream of seriousness and purpose, and voters might well ask whether their vote and money is well spent on UKIP.
The greatest danger to UKIP is not ‘the Establishment’; it’s the disproportionate number of jokers in the pack.
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