Ukip has suspended another MEP, Janice Atkinson, one of its highest-profile female parliamentary candidates, over allegations of a “serious financial nature”.
The decision to withdraw the whip from Atkinson comes less than two months after Ukip suspended Amjad Bashir, also an MEP, over financial matters just before he defected to the Conservative party. He strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The party did not disclose the exact reasons for the suspension of Atkinson, its candidate for MP in Folkestone and Hythe in Kent, but it is understood to be related to video footage obtained by the Sun newspaper. In an article on the paper’s website, it said it had secretly filmed a member of Atkinson’s staff “apparently plotting to make a substantial bogus expenses claim”. The claim allegedly related to a lunch costing £950 attended by a number of senior Ukip figures during the party’s spring conference in Margate.
The Sun said it had filmed a staff member of Atkinson’s asking for and then accepting an invoice for £3,150 at the restaurant the next day. The newspaper said this would have allowed Atkinson’s office to claim the higher total on expenses from a group funded by the European parliament to boost Ukip’s finances. The Sun said it had passed on details of the incident to Kent police.
Atkinson has not immediately responded to requests for comment.
A Ukip spokesman said: “The party is incredibly disappointed with Ms Atkinson, who appears to have exercised extremely poor judgment in acting in a way that the party has never, and would never condone. The party has acted swiftly and immediately, and just as we showed when we suspended another MEP for financial irregularities, we always maintain a zero tolerance attitude towards acts of this nature.”
A senior Ukip source said the party was “absolutely aghast” at what is alleged to have happened, especially given that it is just 48 days away from an election. The source said it was possible that Diane James, the Ukip MEP who recently stood down as a candidate for family reasons, could be drafted back in to stand in Folkestone, which is considered an important seat for the party.
The MEP has previously been criticised and forced to apologise for referring to a Thai constituent as a “ting-tong”. Ukip leader Nigel Farage stood by her on that occasion, saying it was a mistake and apologising to the woman, Fa Munday, in person.
On this occasion, Farage told KentOnline that the suspension was related to “quite a serious allegation that a receipt that was submitted was not all it should have been”. “We treat these things very seriously, so we have acted quickly – some may say harshly – so we will have to wait and see,” he leader said. “It’s as much about how you deal with it, and we have shown we deal with this kind of thing very quickly.”
Atkinson recently played a high-profile role in the party’s spring conference in Margate, giving a speech that railed against “Guardianista feministas”. She also told the audience that she believed she would beat Conservative MP Damian Collins, who holds a majority of around 10,000.
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