Daily Express owner Richard Desmond hands Ukip £1.3m

Ukip Voters

The owner of the Daily Express, Richard Desmond, has handed over £1.3m to boost Ukip’s general election campaign.

The newspaper baron, who began his publishing career in pornography, told his own publication that he was making the donation because he “firmly believes in Ukip”.

The money is significant as it comes at a time when Ukip is being squeezed in the polls by the Conservatives and Labour, having dropped from its peak of 19% to around 14% or less.

It comes on top of a £300,000 donation to the party last year and speculation that Desmond would like a peerage.

The newspaper publisher is the owner of the Sunday Express, the Daily Star and OK! magazine, as well as Television X and the Red Hot adult channels, although he strongly rejects descriptions of himself as a pornography baron.

Over the first week of the short campaign, Labour raised £1.9m, mostly from the unions, while the Conservatives only managed to get around £500,000. In that period, Ukip got just £35,000, which outstripped the £20,000 given to the Liberal Democrats.

Handing over the money at the offices of the Northern & Shell group, Desmond said: “I am fed up with complacency and cronyism, and I’m fed up with the floppy-haired Eton club. I am also fed up with champagne socialists who just tell people what they want to hear.

“Ukip is a thorn in their side. That is why I am doing this. I want them to carry on being a thorn in the side of the Tories and Labour.”

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, said the money from the newspaper owner would “make a big difference ... up against the big battalions”.

“It enables us, particularly with our online presence, to reach bigger and bigger audiences,” he said. “We’ve been doing very well compared to the big parties already and this will make a big difference.”

Farage added: “Richard is a self-made man with the courage of his convictions. I know there are a lot more people out there who agree in private but I hope this public gesture encourages others to follow this example.”

Ukip is expected to win only a handful of seats but the level of its support could influence the result in key seats where Labour is trying to win constituencies from the Conservatives.

The most likely places for the party to gain MPs are Clacton, Thurrock, Rochester, South Thanet, where Farage is standing, Castle Point, and Great Grimsby.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for The Guardian on Thursday 16th April 2015 18.34 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010