Leading Conservative Party figures, working with Times newspaper journalists, have thrown the gauntlet down before the UK Independence Party ahead of the European Elections next month. UKIP hit back following yesterday’s story by the Times that its leader Nigel Farage was ‘under investigation’ by European authorities over his expenses claims, causing uproar within Conservative ranks.
UKIP stated that the Times‘ source for its story alleging Farage misappropriated £15,500 from the European Parliament was a “a convicted fraudster serving a suspended sentence, whose allegations are unfounded and vexatious”. Over the course of yesterday it emerged that not only was the Times’ original source spurious, but that the ‘investigation’ by the European Anti-Fraud body (OLAF) was hardly of substance, as the organisation is persistently used by political parties as a means to embarrass opponents.
Further to this, another Times source, David Samuel-Camps, wrote to the paper making clear that the story has distorted his responses to the questions posed. He said: “I am extremely concerned that in your report you have distorted my responses to your questions regarding the Lyminster office costs. To the best of knowledge and belief I was completely honest in my answers and resent the fact that those answers have been completely distorted. I did warn you that there is a small minority who are ‘mischief makers’ – one in particular who would go to any lengths to destroy Mr Farage’s reputation.”
But the Times has doubled down on the story, instead of publishing corrections and apologies as one might expect. UKIP allege that this is because of the paper’s links to the Conservative Party, citing numerous high-profile, David Cameron allies inside the paper.
UKIP states that Lord Finkelstein, the Times‘ executive editor and Tory peer, “has in the past been embarrassed by claims that he has written speeches for Osborne while simultaneously working as Times chief leader writer.”
The eurosceptic party also names Matthew Parris, Alice Thomson, Hugo Rifkind, Rachel Sylvester, Tim Montgomerie, and Alexi Mostrous, all of whom are either known to be hostile to UKIP, or maintain familial and professional ties to the Conservative Party.
The Conservative ‘establishment’ has hit back at these claims, rallying around their Times colleagues. Another former Conservative MP, Paul Goodman, took to the pages of ConservativeHome to mock UKIP’s allegations that there is some sort of conspiracy against them from within Britain’s political establishment – even though the hostility and campaigning is already well documented. Goodman admits in his piece that he is also a columnist for the Times, though he insists his latest piece is not about UKIP.