A few days after that, the recently elected MEP Marta Andreasen resigned as treasurer, accusing the party managers of being immature and amateur - something that comes as no surprise to some observers. She may also have been influenced by the minor inconvenience of having to repay £363,697 that they haven't got because of an illegal donation and find the thick end of half a million quid to pay off their legal costs as well, which rather supports her argument of the amateurism at the top of the party. Indeed, this may be the real reason that Farage has stood down, because when the magistrates' court originally agreed with the Electoral Commission that the donation was illegal, they only demanded that £18000 or so be repaid. Nigel Farage then wandered around the media, accusing the Electoral Commission of picking on UKIP - although admitting that the letter of the law had indeed been breached by the party. Not surprisingly, the Electoral Commission then went for the throat, appealing the original decision and pushing for full forfeiture, which has now duly been rubberstamped by the Appeal Court and will be returned to the magistrates for them to correct their decision, so expect a sizeable bill to be directed towards UKIP HQ over the coming weeks.
The party also showed indecent haste in accepting the mahogany-coloured Robert Kilroy-Silk as an MEP for a brief period, before he resigned in pique at not being appointed leader and then went to form his own party, from which he resigned within a year and spent more time being the most useless MEP in British history. Along the way, they lost Ashley Mote, who was elected and served a couple of weeks as a UKIP MEP before admitting that he faced criminal prosecution over benefit fraud and being thrown out of the party. Ashley was eventually convicted and sentenced to nine months. Recently, another of their former MEPs, Tom Wise, was sent down for defrauding the EU of £39,000 in expenses. He was replaced as MEP by Stuart Agnew, described by the plain-talking Nigel Farage as
as thick as shit but he has money
Which applies to many of the UKIP MEPs, frankly.
Moving on, however, we have a leadership election in progress and not since John Hemming put his name into the bottle to replace Chuckles Kennedy have we had a comedy leadership candidate from the Midlands, but UKIP have manage to bless us with two - Mike Nattrass and the terrifying Nikki Sinclaire. They were the dynamic duo who actually managed to unite Labour, the Tories and the Liberals at the recent European election counts by accusing us all of being fascists during a pair of rambling, ranting, stream of unconsciousness speeches. At the time, certain members of the Conservative and Labour parties may have made their views clear to the speakers through the ancient art of heckling.
Mike has particular problems of his own - which weren't raised on today's Politics Show West Midlands - as he is currently under investigation as to whether a UKIP political regional organiser was paid out of EU funds and whether it was appropriate to funnel expenses payments through Nattrass' own company in Birmingham. This would hardly be a surprise, as Nigel Farage himself promised that the party would use parliamentary expenses to
to further the objectives of UKIP back in Britain
Aside from that, Mike's background with the nutty right may prove something of a stumbling block, as he was formerly heavily involved with the now defunct New Britain Party. Back in 1994 in Property Week magazine, he was quoted as saying
I’m not interested in sensitivities [on immigration issues], I’m interested in being British
Mind you, Mike has suggested in the past that Britain might have to fight its way out of the EU if other nations stopped it leaving.
Nikki Sinclaire, meanwhile, has been engaged in rewriting history - she told the Radio Five Live listeners that Ashley Mote, mentioned earlier, had never served as a UKIP MEP. Granted, his tenure as an actual UKIP MEP was only a matter of weeks, until they discovered that he was facing prosecution, but he did serve as an MEP and certainly campaigned for and won election to the European parliament on that basis.
The front runner is controversial in his own right. Lord Pearson of Rannoch (pictured in happier days) is the man who invited Geert Wilders to show his unpleasant 'film', Fitna, which is virulently anti-Islamic. On Lord Pearson's website, there is an entertaining recording of an interview on the Today programme which dates back to 2001, where he spends his time petulantly berating the programme for not giving enough airtime to anti-Europeans. His presentational style is patrician and soporific, but with just enough flapping of white coats on the soundtrack to keep it interesting.
Farage commented a little while back that
When I took it over, and for a few years before that, UKIP had been riven with in-fighting. We had a brand that was seen by many to be somewhat toxic. I think that has gone....
I think that his rebranding exercise is about to fall to bits, regardless of which loon actually wins.
Even those elements of the media who may not like what we stand for no longer really think we are the wild men of the hills.Can you hear banjos?