Wednesday, July 30

The plot thickens around Tom Wise

It seems that Tom Wise has been arrested for a second time, with the Hemel Gazette reporting that Wise has been arrested on suspicion of making a false instrument, obtaining money by deception and converting criminal property. Wise has been released on police bail until 29th October, leading to renewed rumours that he may become the second UKIP MEP elected in 2004 to face criminal charges.

UKIP will no doubt claim that Tom Wise has been expelled from the party and is sitting as an independent, but a little look at the Electoral Commission's website would suggest that Wise and his lady wife are still the Treasurer and First Officer of their local UKIP branch (surprising that the UKIP South-Bedfordshire branch would entrust their accounts to a man under investigation for alleged fraud, but that's another matter).

UKIPs class of 2009

UKIP's candidate list for next year is now available, and a much depleted team it is too. Not only have they lost over 30% of their members since 2004 - now boasting between 16 and 17,000 members depending on which NEC member you ask - but only 5 of the 12 UKIP MEPs elected in 2004 will be standing for re-election.

Needless to say, not even UKIP would try to re-select Tom Wise while he is still being investigated by the police for expenses fraud, while convicted benefit fraudster Ashley Mote and the ubiquitous Robert Kilroy Silk departed the UKIP scene shortly after being elected. Added to these losses are South-West MEP Graham Booth who is standing down next month for family reasons, while Roger Knapman, party chairman John Whittaker and Jeffrey Titford have all stated that they will not be seeking re-election next year - although although Mr Titford's decision might have been prompted by his becoming the latest UKIP MEP to have his collar felt by Inspector Knacker.

The list of candidates includes a number of IND-DEM staffers - including Paul Nuttal, Ralph Atkinson and Gawain Towler. Other notable candidates include Marta Andreasen, the former European Commission whistle-blower, who recently took one of the most thankless jobs in politics by becoming UKIP's treasurer and accountant, who is on the shortlist for both London and the South-East, although it's difficult to imagine that the UKIP membership will want to select a foreigner to become one of their MEPs though).

It seems that UKIP have not been rushed off their feet by applicants, with a number of candidates short listed in two regions. Maybe they've been put off by the exorbitant cost of standing for the party - as UKIPwatch explained here, merely being selected as a UKIP candidate will cost you a cool £1050.

The short-lists are also light on celebrity. 5 years after Kilroy's media savvy helped UKIP get more exposure than was justified for a collection of fruitcakes and assorted right-wing nut jobs, there is a distinct lack of celebrity stardust, although Joan Collins will no doubt be wheeled out during the campaign. UKIPwatcher is also disappointed to see that neither 'celebrity chef' Rustie Lee or Day of the Jackal star Edward Fox are running, while disgraced former Tory turned U-kipper Neil Hamilton (he of 'cash for questions' fame) has also eschewed the chance to stand.. Instead it looks like we'll have to make do with the Earl of Dartmouth and Bishop Brennan lookalike Godfrey Bloom.

UKIP have struggled to make an impression in any election since their stunning result in 2004 when they comfortably outspent Labour and the Lib Dems. Despite claiming that they are no longer a single issue party, they fared abysmally in the 2005 general election, and local elections and were wiped out in the London Assembly elections this year - losing the 2 seats they won in 2004 and being comfortably outstripped by the BNP for the far-right vote. With a tiny membership, apparently meagre funds (although it is not unthinkable that Tory eurosceptic Paul Sykes will open his wallet to boost their coffers) and an uninspiring set of candidates, the indicators are that UKIP are a busted flush and will lose most of their seats next year.

Friday, July 25

From 12 to 7 after latest UKIP resignation

Oh dear, another one bites the dust. South West MEP Graham Booth has announced his intention to resign in September, meaning that 5 of the 12 UKIP MEPs elected in 2004 are UKIP no more. UKIPwatch wishes him well.

Booth is set to be replaced by Trevor Colman, number 3 on UKIP's South West list, and the man who conducted UKIP's internal inquiry into Tom Wise's alleged expenses fraud.

Friday, July 18

UKIP continue to leak like a sieve

Looks as though UKIPwatcher is not the only one being leaked information by desperate U-kippers. Seems as though they're also sending stuff to Richard Corbett - a man not usually regarded as being a friend of UKIP!

Tuesday, July 15

Did Mote receive illegal donation from the Queen?

When disgraced former UKIP MEP and convicted benefit fraudster Ashley Mote was released from the slammer last December, he was full of effusive praise for his prison governor who, said Mote, had allowed him to continue his constituency work. This ensured, according to the pompous buffoon, that "my constituents did not suffer as a result of my incarceration". Perhaps Cashley even penned the towering "J'accuse" - a tour de force that sealed his status as a political philosopher and pamphleteer to rival Mill, Locke or Paine - when serving his time.

On a serious matter, MEPs have to declare their office expenditure and all donations in the register of interests. Indeed, all donations, either financial or 'in kind' must be registered with the Electoral Commission and European Parliament. Therefore, you would expect that a donation of free office facilities from Her Majesty's Prison Service would feature in Cashley's declaration. However, a quick check of Mote's declaration and a glance at the Electoral Commission's website shows that he does not mention it. There are two possibilities: either Ash paid for his prison facilities or he is simply too proud to declare a donation in kind from the Monarch? More to the point, has Her Maj been told?

Wednesday, July 9

When europhobes fall out

Like a car crash shown in slow motion, the Tom Wise saga has been excruciating but compelling viewing. First UKIP backed him, then they said they'd sacked him, then they said he was innocent. Now Tom Wise, who it seems has finally been kicked out of UKIP and the IND-DEM group (although you wouldn't think so to see his website), seems to have decided that if he's going to be hung out to dry then he'll take a few former colleagues with him.

This open letter by Wise alleging "inappropriate or even illegal" use of IND-DEM funds is dynamite, but builds on similar information sent anonymously to UKIPwatcher a few weeks ago. He states that "following consultations, I have presented this (evidence) to Roger Vanhaeran, Director General of Finance, who has subsequently confirmed that this matter is now the subject of a formal investigation".

All this is interesting enough, but small potatoes compared to this bile-laden response from the superbly named Herman Verheirstraaten, the Secretary General of IND-DEM. The Hermanator accuses Wise of lying, incompetence, treachery…you name it.

There are numerous nuggets in Vanheirstraaten's ripost, and UKIPwatch was particularly tickled by "I still owe you the bottle of UKIP labelled champagne you gave me for all my help during the financial investigation against you. I can't possibly drink it, because it would taste very sour". Kind of sums UKIP up really.

So, according to a UKIP MEP, UKIPs political group has made illegal donations to the EU Democrats, and Nigel Farage was either complicit or at least knew what was going on. Intriguingly, Vanheirstraaten urges Wise to name the two EU Democrat employees he claims are being illegally employed by IND-DEM. The question is whether the notoriously indiscreet Wise will take the bait.

All in all, it's like a third-rate crime thriller. Still, just ten months until the electorate will be able to put this bunch of clowns out of their misery.