There is absolutely no defence for suspended UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson. I’ve tried – really, really hard – but no; through arrogance and stupidity she has landed herself up a certain creek without a paddle or a hope.
Last night it emerged that The Sun newspaper has gathered extensive footage of Atkinson’s office attempting what appears to be large scale criminal fraud.
After hosting a pre-conference event at The Hoy restaurant in Margate, Kent less than a month ago, allegedly her UK-based parliamentary office requested that the true invoice for £950 be inflated to £3,150 with the intention of pocketing the difference.
Atkinson’s chief of staff has been filmed saying that “the idea is we overcharge them slightly because that’s the way of repatriating (the money)”.
She later emailed the manager to barter over how much they could inflate the supposed price of the bottles of wine drunk by the party, which included UKIP leader Nigel Farage MEP and Tory defector Mark Reckless MP, before requesting that the marked up invoice be addressed to the IDDE group in Brussels. Unsurprisingly, an itemised bill was declined by the office in favour of a single, vastly inflated statement.
The question on the lips of everyone both inside and out of UKIP is: what on earth was she thinking? And did they really think they would get away with it? For legal reasons I should probably mention that no one has been charged with anything – yet – but the evidence is mounting and serious enough for UKIP to immediately suspend the MEP and general election candidate.
Janice, and her ‘chief of staff’, could well go to prison if found guilty of fraud, which would make her the third elected UKIP MEP to serve time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The entire situation is just ridiculous; as a libertarian I would love to “repatriate” my money from the taxman by any available means but I stop short of blatant law breaking.
UKIP’s group in the European Parliament remains stable despite losing an MEP but the point remains that this could seriously damage the party ahead of a crucial election in May. This sort of deliberate dishonesty cannot be contained to Ms Atkinson alone, despite UKIP’s swift and decisive action; the party is bound to suffer in the polls. Questions are already buzzing of “how many others” and “which UKIP MEP will be next”.
The only decent course of action for Janice to take now would be to immediately resign her seat, but from past dealings with her I would imagine that this is about as likely as Farage defecting to the Greens. If she were to do so, the public interest element would no longer exist and the threat of a potential prison sentence, should this go to court, would lessen. But Janice is not one to back down in a situation.
Her ascendance to the very top – aside for Farage – of the UKIP candidates list came as quite the shock to many who know her and have witnessed her many gaffes over the years, not to mention disastrous appearances on Question Time. Janice rose to infamy last summer when she referred to one of her Thai constituents as a “Ting Tong from somewhere”, causing the press office quite the headache.
She has been considered a ticking time bomb by many in the party for quite some time; unfortunately, with the footage now in the hands of Kent police, it seems the bomb has finally gone off.