Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers, is set to donate £300,000 to UKIP before next year’s General Election.
Sky News reports that Mr Desmond pledged to give the money to Nigel Farage’s party in a move that will bolster UKIP’s general election war chest ahead of an election where they are expected to win multiple seats.
The news of the donation also strongly increases the likelihood of the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers officially endorsing UKIP before the General Election. They are already the only major national titles to explicitly call for Britain to leave the EU, and if they do endorse the anti-EU party, it will be the first time for some years that a major newspaper has not endorsed one of the big Westminster parties.
The move is especially significant as Britain’s mainstream media has been overwhelmingly hostile to UKIP over the past few months, with most papers across the political spectrum reporting a string of negative stories about various candidates in the run up to the European Elections in May.
Despite this, the party still went on the win the elections with 26.6 percent of the vote and 24 out of 73 UK seats in the European Parliament. The party would no doubt still welcome the backing a UK newspaper proprietor however.
In September, Breitbart London reported on a private meeting between Nigel Farage and Rupert Murdoch in New York. The NewsCorp owner has traditionally been seen as a ‘king-maker’ at UK General Elections, famously backing John Major’s Conservatives in 1992 before switching to Tony Blair’s Labour Party in 1997. He usually saves such meetings for politicians he plans to back.
Richard Desmond’s donation to UKIP will come as a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who received Mr Desmond’s backing at the last General Election. It is understood that Cameron had been trying to court his support ahead of what is increasingly looking like a close and unpredictable election.
Although it is unusual for newspaper proprietors to donate to political parties, Mr Desmond has form, having previously given 100,000 to Tony Blair’s Labour Party.