EUROSCEPTIC businessman Arron Banks is to concentrate on building a new anti-Brussels splinter group after his Ukip membership lapsed. The insurance tycoon, who gave around £1million to Ukip in the run up to the last general election, plans to launch a new anti-establishment political force using social media to attract support. The move follows a series of angry clashed between the donor and senior figures in the party including Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell.
The crisis in Ukip hit new heights last night as one of its biggest donors threatened to start a new party after being kicked out. Insurance tycoon Arron Banks has been embroiled in a row with Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, claiming he ‘couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding’ and saying the party was being ‘run like a jumble sale’. Yesterday, after Ukip refused to renew his membership, Mr Banks promised a ‘new movement’ and wrote on Twitter: ‘Ukip 2.0, the force awakens.’
ARRON Banks claims he has been kicked out of Ukip after the party’s biggest donor claimed leader Paul Nuttall “couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding”. The insurance tycoon has long been critical of those in charge since his ally Nigel Farage quit, and he has been threatening to start his own party instead. This now seems much more likely after he tweeted this morning: “Understand my Ukip membership has been suspended. Interesting times lie ahead …” But there was confusion over his claim, as a Ukip spokesman said the millionaire businessman’s membership had lapsed earlier this year after he failed to renew it. However he is adamant he was suspended, after he declined an invitation to appear in front of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee about his recent comments. Mr Banks put out a statement saying: “Ukip has somehow managed to allow my membership to lapse this year despite having given considerably more than the annual membership fee over the past 12 months. “On reapplying I was told my membership was suspended pending my appearance at a NEC meeting.
UKIP Leader Paul Nuttall said today: Following a meeting of the Party’s NEC on Friday, it was decided a response to a letter written to me by Arron Banks in February was appropriate. Subsequently, the letter below was sent to Mr Banks early this morning and is copied here in full:
Police have interviewed a Tory MP under caution for six hours over election expenses amid a growing “s***storm” over wider allegations relating to the party’s 2015 general election spending. Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP for South Thanet, who defeated the then Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Al Murray at the election in 2015, reportedly spent several hours speaking to police about their investigation into his seat. According to the Telegraph, police would not comment on Mr Mackinlay’s interview but added: “The Kent Police investigation into this complex matter is ongoing and officers continue to follow lines of inquiry”. “Therefore it would not be appropriate to comment further. Officers from Kent Police continue to work with the Electoral Commission as the investigation continues”. It comes after the Electoral Commission opened a probe following an investigation by Channel 4 News that found the Conservatives transported busloads of volunteers to marginal seats to aide with the campaigning, but that the expenses, including travel and accommodation costs, were not registered on local spending reports.
A Conservative MP has been interviewed under caution as part of an ongoing police inquiry into whether the party overspent in its campaign for South Thanet in the 2015 general election, when they were up against Nigel Farage. Craig Mackinlay, the MP who won the seat against the former Ukip leader, is said to have spent about six hours speaking to police about their investigation, which has been ongoing for about a year. Asked about the interview, a Conservative spokesman said: “We are cooperating with the ongoing investigations.” Mackinlay did not reply to a request for comment. There is growing panic in the Conservative party about the scale of police probes into election spending, which could affect dozens of MPs. A separate investigation by the Electoral Commission into whether the national party broke election spending limits is also under way and expected to come to a head within weeks.
Kent Police interviewed the Conservative Party’s Member of Parliament for the South Thanet constituency after months of investigations pertaining to election expenses. The Sun and the Telegraph both reported on Tuesday evening that Craig Mackinlay — who narrowly defeated the former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage in 2015 — was interviewed under caution by police for six hours last week. Police are said to be meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the coming days to discuss a prosecution. According to the Sun, a Conservative Party source said: “[The police] really put him through the mill, he was there for six hours.” While the MP and his election agent deny any wrongdoing, a number of journalistic investigations have revealed the Conservative Party sent senior staffers, even some from 10 Downing Street, to the south east constituency in a desperate attempt to keep Nigel Farage out of parliament. The costs associated with these staffers, their accommodation, and more, were allegedly not disclosed as local election spending, and thusly kept Mr. Mackinlay’s campaign under the spending limit in the seat.
A Tory MP faced a six-hour grilling by police under caution over alleged election fraud, it has been reported. Sources claimed South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay was “put through the mill” last week by a team of cops investigating the Conservative Party’s apparent failure to declare thousands of pounds of spending in the 2015 general election. It follows a major Daily Mirror investigation which found two dozen Tory MPs who won marginal seats may have failed to properly declare their election expenses. Our story called into question the legitimacy of the entire 2015 election result, which saw the Tories’ win a narrow majority of just 12 seats. With investigations still ongoing by the police and the Electoral Commission watchdog, a leaked email reveal the panicking Tory MPs involved fear a “media storm” as the net closes in.
THERESA May could be dramatically kicked out of Downing Street and the Government overturned as a new expenses scandal engulfs the Tories. Up to 30 Conservative MPs are being investigated by police over their 2015 general election expenses, a leaked email suggests. If they are found to have committed any offence, new by-elections could be called in two dozen seats. The Conservative majority in Parliament is just 17 – meaning opposition parties would only need to win just over half to challenge the Government. The crazy situation could derail Brexit – and see Nigel Farage catapulted into Parliament. The Electoral Commission is probing allegations a number of Conservative MPs overspent on their 2015 General Election campaigns. But a leaked email from one MP under investigation suggests police are looking at up to 30 Tories, Sky News reports.
Pressure is building on senior Conservatives over their election expenses after leaked emails revealed furious infighting over who is to blame. Those who masterminded the 2015 campaign are facing questions, after MPs said they felt cast adrift by party officials “covering their own backsides”. Two dozen Tories are understood to be under police investigation over claims they overspent on their local campaigns in which spending limits are tight. Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln and one of those under investigation, wrote a bombshell email to the party chairman attacking the party’s handling of the controversy linked to its election “battle bus”. In it, he wrote: “We didn’t create this mess, the clever dicks at CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) did, and I don’t see their professional reputations being trashed in the media.”
EUROPEAN Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is not now expected to make Britain sign up to an exit fee before getting down to broader talks on future relations, it has emerged. The Frenchman is said to have told the Government informally that he will ask it first to agree the broad principles of a payment but not present the exact bill until later in the process. Once the principles are agreed he would be ready to open up the talks to cover all aspects of future links between Britain and the remaining EU. The apparent concession quells fears that Mr Barnier would slam the brakes on Brexit by tabling an immediate demand that Britain agree to pay up to £50billion before talks go any further. That could have plunged the two sides into such deep rows that some feared the negotiations could be destroyed before they began. Under the latest scenario, Britain could proceed as Mrs May wants with discussing a new trade deal at the same time as thrashing out the conditions for the UK’s actual exit from the EU.
THE European socialists’ top dog today vowed to make Theresa May “see sense” over her plans to pull Britain out of the single market. Left-wing boss Gianni Pitella described Brexit as a “disaster beginning to unfold” following the announcement of a second Scottish referendum. And the Italian MEP also insisted that Britain would have to pay a looming £50bn exit bill when leaving the club. Mr Pitella, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats grouping, made the remarks at a press conference in Strasbourg this morning. He was quizzed about the decision of MPs last night to overturn two amendments proposed to the Article 50 bill by the Lords. Mrs May saw off a potential rebellion over the residency rights of EU citizens and MPs have a final say on the Brexit deal she secures.
Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum plans were rapidly unravelling tonight as it emerged she is to abandon the SNP’s policy of rejoining the EU immediately amid record Euroscepticism in Scotland. Just a day after the Scottish First Minister demanded a second vote on independence, senior Nationalist sources told The Daily Telegraph that Ms Sturgeon would instead try to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), whose members include Norway and Iceland. Ms Sturgeon fears that the SNP’s long-standing policy of an independent Scotland joining the EU would put off the 400,000 voters who backed independence in 2014 and also voted Leave in last year’s EU referendum. They represent one quarter of all those who voted for independence.
Scottish voters are opposed to independence, with support for staying in the United Kingdom at its strongest for two and a half years, a poll for The Times reveals. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, would have to close a 14-point gap to win a referendum, according to the YouGov survey. It found that 57 per cent of voters backed staying inside the UK and 43 per cent wanted independence, once “don’t knows” and those not prepared to vote were excluded. YouGov last recorded a 14-point lead in favour of Scotland staying in the Union in a poll in August 2014, a month before the first independence referendum.
Support for Scottish independence is at its highest-ever level, according to an academic study. But the Scottish Social Attitudes survey also suggested the popularity of the European Union has fallen. The researchers said this suggested focusing on EU membership may not be the best way to swing more voters towards independence. The survey has asked the same question about how Scotland should be governed every year since 1999. It was carried out by ScotCen Social Research and has been published two days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed she wants to ask the UK government for permission to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Scotland’s independence referendum could be called off if Theresa May acts swiftly to offer a compromise, according to the SNP’s most senior figure in Westminster. Angus Robertson told the Guardian his party’s priority was to protect Scotland’s membership of the European single market, and he was pressing the Prime Minister to offer a special deal to make this possible. His comments come as Nicola Sturgeon is said to be about to abandon her policy of rejoining the EU immediately after a vote for independence, amid concerns rising Euroscepticism in Scotland could derail her campaign. Just a day after the Scottish First Minister demanded a second vote on Independence, senior nationalist sources reportedly told the Daily Telegraph that Ms Sturgeon would take a softer line on membership of the EU and instead try to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), whose members include Norway and Iceland.
Spain today warned Scotland it would be at the ‘back of the queue’ for EU membership if it voted for independence. Foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said Spain would do nothing to encourage ‘secession’ in other countries. The Spanish government has a long dispute with its own Catalonia region. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans for a snap re-run of the 2014 independence referendum in a bid to preserve Scotland’s place in Europe. The SNP leader has infuriated Prime Minister Theresa May with her demand for a poll between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 before Brexit is finalised.
Theresa May still has time to reach a compromise deal with Scotland that could avert a second independence referendum but the clock is ticking, the SNP’s most senior figure in Westminster has said. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Angus Robertson said his party’s first priority was to protect Scotland’s membership of the European single market. As such, he promised to continue pressing the prime minister to hammer out a special Brexit deal for his nation. “There may only be days, may only be weeks, but where all of our efforts are currently focused is trying to convince the UK government to come to a compromise agreement protecting Scotland’s place in Europe,” he said. “If that road runs out and if we have to have that referendum, we will be turning our attention to making sure that we are making the case publicly, intellectually and in every other way so people understand the choice of a hard Tory Brexit Britain or a Scotland able to maintain its relations with the rest of Europe.” Robertson indicated that failure to act by the prime minister made the possibility of independence ever more likely.
The Scottish government is preparing to hold private talks about rejoining the single market without becoming a full member of the EU. Senior figures in the SNP believe that membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) along the lines of Norway’s arrangements with the EU would be financially and politically viable if a second referendum went in favour of independence from the UK. The possibility of Scotland being fast-tracked into the EU was contested during the 2014 referendum and party officials now accept that a looser arrangement in which it was inside the single market but outside the bloc may be more feasible, without ruling out the possibility of full membership later.
NICOLA Sturgeon has gaffed over the timing of a second Scots independence referendum because eurosceptisicm there is at a record high, an academic survey has found. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found despite Scots voting to Remain, two out of three either want Britain to leave the EU or for its powers to be slashed compared to just over half back in 2014. Their report warned calling a second referendum on independence based on keeping Scotland IN the EU may not be the best strategy for winning one. Experts found the commitment of many voters in Scotland to remain in the EU “does not appear to be especially strong”. They suggested Scots are now “more sceptical about the EU” than before the 2016 Brexit vote was held.
EUROSCEPTIC parties like Ukip should be driven out of the EU via a law change which would starve them of cash compared to their europhile rivals, a highly influential German politician has proposed today. German MEP Manfred Weber, the chairman of the powerful EPP grouping, sparked fury by saying there must be “no more money” for political groupings opposed to the European project in an attempt to bolster the ranks of pro-EU forces in the parliament. He revealed he has today written to Brussels chief Jean-Claude Juncker asking him to draw up a new law banning parties including Britain’s Ukip, the French Front National and Italy’s Five Star Movement from receiving cash on the same basis as europhile groupings. The move would mean that all workers across Europe would be automatically required to stump up exclusively to fund europhile parties, despite polling showing that enthusiasm for ever-closer union is lagging in many member states. Mr Weber said that eurocrats were “stupid” to carry on handing taxpayers’ money to politicians openly opposed to greater European integration, and said the bloc was effectively “funding its enemies” by doing so.
In the latest sign that those at the top of the European Union operate in a totally different universe from the rest of us, their latest brainwave is to host a huge inauguration ceremony for Jean-Claude Juncker’s successor. That’s right, a huge event to honour the new EU Commission President, voted for by….no one. The European Parliament’s Secretary General, Klaus Welle, apparently has support to put on the lavish ceremony potentially after the next set of European Elections. What a great idea: highlighting to the people’s of Europe how their taxes go towards paying for a regime and President most of them have probably not heard of and nor voted for. Democracy, EU style.
FRENCH presidential candidate Francois Fillon has been charged with a range of offences related to a fake jobs scandal involving his British wife. The conservative candidate has been put under formal investigation on suspicion of diverting public funds, complicity in misappropriating funds, receiving the funds and not declaring assets fully, a judicial source said. His lawyer Antonin Levy told AFP: “He was charged this morning. The hearing was brought forward so that it could take place in a calm manner.” Financial prosecutors said the 63-year-old faces trial and, if he is found guilty of swindling hundreds of thousands of pounds over three decades, a prison sentence. It is alleged that Penelope Fillon, 62, pretended to be a high-powered parliamentary aide and literary consultant in what has become known as Penelopegate. Their two eldest children, Marie and Charles, also allegedly worked for their father in the French senate, raking in more cash.
GEERT Wilders hopes to create a political earthquake by storming to victory in the Dutch election. But can he win and when will the results come in? Up to 13 million Dutch voters are getting ready to go to the polls tomorrow as Eurosceptic firebrand Geert Wilders takes on the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Mr Wilders, the populist leader of the anti-Islamist Party for Freedom (PVV), has lost his clear lead in the polls as he goes into the knife-edge Netherlands election. The latest polls show that Prime Minister Mr Rutte, from the Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), is now on track to win a few more seats than Mr Wilders. But no political party will come even close to winning enough seats to form a majority government in the 150-member lower house of the Dutch Parliament.
Events in the usually peaceful European country of the Netherlands are getting a lot of attention these days. Riots in Rotterdam recently were sparked by the Dutch government’s blocking of Turkish officials entering Holland to rally expat voters for an upcoming Turkish referendum. Officials here say they did it in the name of security. Turkish President Erdogan blasted the action. He branded the Dutch “Nazi remnants.” He slapped them with diplomatic sanctions and threatened more. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, campaigning in The Hague before Wednesday’s parliamentary vote, defended his actions to Fox News. “This depends on Turkey,” he said. “We didn’t seek this fight.”
WITH its cannabis cafés and legalised prostitution, Holland has always prided itself on being a bastion of liberalism. But ahead of today’s election, in which a right-wing populist known as the “Dutch Donald Trump” is jockeying for the lead, its government has suffered the indignity of being branded “Nazi remnants and fascists” by the Turkish president. The extraordinary attack came as Holland banned Turkey from holding rallies in the country to drum-up support among expats when it goes to the polls itself next month. Dutch cops even used dogs and water cannon to disperse protesters in Rotterdam last weekend amid the fallout. The flamboyant leader told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a TV debate: “You are not the Prime Minister of the Netherlands but of the foreigners.” Rutte retorted that Wilders’ plans to close borders, shut mosques and ban the Koran were “fake solutions”.
HOSPITAL chiefs have racked up a £1.2million bill buying 5,133 of Dyson’s trendy bladeless fans instead of ones costing a tenth as much. The splurge is part of a £1,435,432 fortune spent by trusts across England on the firm’s notoriously pricey products. The rest has gone on luxury vacuums and hand dryers — after rival versions at a fraction of the price were spurned. One NHS trust that paid £719.98 for two of the fans got them from John Lewis, a probe by The Sun found. MPs were outraged by the revelation. Tory Philip Davies said: “It is vital the NHS spends taxpayers’ money wisely. “Going shopping for things at John Lewis is unlikely to be the most efficient way of doing things.” Lib Dem Norman Lamb said the NHS should be making “every penny count”. He said: “That means clever buying – not buying at John Lewis.” The Dyson bill was exposed by a freedom of information request to England’s 236 hospital trusts. Sixteen did not respond.
Hospitals are wasting more than £100 million a year through back-office inefficiencies such as paying £10 for each payslip they send out. The least efficient are spending three times as much on administration as the best, according to data from NHS Improvement, the financial regulator. Hospitals have been told to save £422 million over three years by reducing wasteful spending on IT, finance and human resources. Some hospital trusts spend £6 on processing each invoice from suppliers, while others spend less than £1. Computing costs range from £300,000 to more than £2 million per £100 million of turnover, the figures show. Telephone costs vary between £100,000 and £400,000 for each £100 million, while human resources management costs range from £500,000 to £1.5 million.
Hospitals have been told to stop wasting money on telephone systems and payslips to save £422million a year. The NHS regulator has discovered that some trusts are spending six times as much as others on back office paperwork and legal costs. A report by NHS Improvement reveals how there is also a four-fold variation on the bills for hospitals’ phone systems which include mobile phones, bleeps and running costs of switchboards. Some trusts were found to be spending three times more than others on their legal teams and human resource departments, described as back office corporate services. The watchdog is today instructing hospitals to slash their back office costs as this is precious money which could be spent improving patient care.
AN ANCIENT civilisation which disappeared more than 13,000 years ago has baffled scientists – but now they have worked out what happened to it. Scientists had been left scratching their heads as the civilisation disappeared overnight at the end of the last Ice Age. But now boffins believe they have solved the mystery – and discovered the people were exterminated by an dinosaur-level mass extinction asteroid. Archaeologists from the University of South Carolina have been probing dig sites across North America as they try to solve the mystery of the Clovis. The people disappeared between 13,200 and 12,900 years ago along with 35 spices of animals – including mammoths, mastodons and saner-tooth tigers. Excavations have unearthed unusually high levels of platinum in the soil – which is normally only found in asteroids and comets. Asteroids can hit Earth “without warning” and are one of the biggest threats to mankind, scientists have warned.