British Businessman Arron Banks, a key supporter of Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union and a major donor to UKIP announced Saturday he would be backing Breitbart London Editor in Chief Raheem Kassam in his bid to lead the party.
Mr. Banks, who gave approximately £7.5 million to the Brexit campaign and has consistently been UKIP’s largest donor announced his support in a Tweet this afternoon in which he said he was “impressed” with Mr. Kassam’s ideas on how to lead the party forward.
I've been very impressed with Raheem's ideas despite Paul Nuttall running I think he's the candidate to beat. He's got my support. https://t.co/RteDnDAYkd
— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) October 22, 2016
Mr. Banks is known to be close to long-time party leader Nigel Farage, who has found himself at the helm again as interim leader during the re-election process. In the past, Mr. Banks’ endorsement has gone with Mr. Farage’s.
Responding to the endorsement, Mr. Kassam said: “This is a major endorsement from someone who has been one of the driving forces behind UKIP in recent years. Mr. Banks ploughed his personal time and money into the referendum campaign and the party and for those wondering whether he still stood with UKIP this is a very clear sign: he does, under a Kassam leadership.
“I’d like to thank Arron for the brave and important support, and I look forward to working with him to make UKIP great again”.
The endorsement follows rumours Mr. Banks was considering plans to break away from UKIP and found his own party. Speaking in July, the donor said: “Now, more than ever, the country needs Ukip to step up, or for a new movement to step forward”.
The endorsement suggests should Kassam take the leadership, UKIP’s most significant backer would stick with the party.
Raheem Kassam was the first to throw his hat in the ring for party leader after the unexpected resignation of Diane James after just 18 days. Mrs. James won the previous leadership vote in a race that was mired in controversy after favorite Steven Woolfe was blocked from running by the party National Executive Committee.
Since then, Mr. Woolfe has resigned from the party after an altercation at the European Union parliament with a fellow UKIP MEP following which he was hospitalised. Mr. Kassam will now stand against Suzanne Evans, who was also barred from running in the last contest, and against Northern MEP Paul Nuttall.
Mr. Kassam’s campaign has got off to a strong start, garnering more digital supporters than all the candidates combined in the last race. He has said he expects his campaign will cost some £10,000 — including the £5,000 entry fee mandated by the party for potential challengers — and has already raised £4,000 in small donations from party members.
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