Eurosceptic Conservative MEP Dan Hannan has angrily denied allegations he held secret talks about defecting to UKIP. He was accused of considering a switch by Arron Banks, a UKIP donor, who was shocked when he learned Hannan had encouraged Amjad Bashir MEP defect the other way.
Hannan has always been the subject of rumours because of his firmly anti-EU views. He is close friends with both Conservative MPs who defected to UKIP, and is even the godparent of one of Douglas Carswell’s children. In the past he has claimed he wanted to remain within the Conservatives to persuade them around to UKIP’s way of thinking on the European issue.
But Mr Banks told The Times of his shock that Hannan had been so instrumental in a defection to the Conservatives as he had made some “very punchy” claims about David Cameron then they met. Banks said: “I was quite surprise to see his role with Amjad, given all the conversations we’d been having… He said that David Cameron was an intellectual vacuum. He said that he was a pro-European and he hoped that he was replaced after the general election.”
But Hannan hit back at the claims on Twitter:
Laura, this is wholly untrue, as others present will confirm. It’s outrageous for you to claim that you tried to contact me. @laurapitel
— Daniel Hannan (@DanHannanMEP) January 26, 2015
However, a UKIP source claimed Hannan did toy with joining UKIP in 2009. The source claimed he was offered the top spot on the UKIP slate for the London region, but the sitting MEP Gerard Batten had refused to give up his spot “for any bloody Tory”. The party was also unwilling to keep Hannan in the South-East region as this would lead to competition with Farage for the number one spot.
Mr Hannan said: “I have never discussed switching parties with Mr Banks… I have met him twice. The first time was to invite him to join Business for Britain; the second to ask for a contribution to a memorial at Runnymede to mark the centenary of Magna Carta. (A large donation was promised, but didn’t materialise.)
“I have repeatedly stated that I see the Conservative Party as our one shot at getting an In/Out referendum. I want to leave the declining EU and rediscover our global vocation.”
Hannan remains a respected figure in both the Conservative Party and UKIP, his defection would be a major blow to David Cameron.