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Tuesday, February 28, 2017
UKIP on verge of splitting; donor Arron Banks threatens to walk away
UKIP is tonight on the verge of splitting as party money man Arron Banks threatened to walk away unless he is made chairman.
The diamond-mine owning multi-millionaire donor issued the ultimatum following leader Paul Nuttall’s humiliation in last week’s Stoke Central by-election.
Fuelling the civil war engulfing the crisis-hit party, Mr Banks stormed: “I am giving Paul Nuttall an ultimatum that either I become chairman and sort out UKIP by bringing in business people and professionals to make it electable or I am out of there.
“The party cannot continue to be run like a jumble sale. If Nuttall doesn’t professionalise it and toss out the likes of Douglas Carswell and the rest of the Tory cabal then the party is finished anyway.
“These dullards aren’t bringing in Tory votes, Stoke proved that. So what are they for?
“The party now needs to bring in serious people to fix its ramshackle administration, stay relevant and stay radical or it will die.”
Mr Carswell is UKIP’s only MP and twice won elections under its banner.
But his long-running feud with Mr Banks is at the centre of a vicious internal power struggle.
Centrists who want to modernise the party while right-wingers like Mr Banks, who is close to former leader Nige Farage, want to build a mass movement and focus on slashing immigration in the wake of the Brexit vote.
“Mr Carswell is a career politician and doesn’t care about UKIP. He has got to get out. So my first job as chairman would be to purge the party of these sorts of people,” Mr Banks told the Sunday Express.
“Carswell is welcome to go back to the Tories or stand as an independent but he will not be welcome under the UKIP banner.
“He has always been a green-eyed, jealous monster when it comes to Nigel.”
He added that losing the Stoke by-election “was the final straw”.
Mr Nuttall hoped victory in the Potteries would silence critics who claim UKIP is pointless now Britain has voted to leave the EU.
But Labour’s victory with a 2,600 majority dealt a hammer blow to a plan to target Labour in its northern and Midlands heartlands.
UKIP deputy leader Peter Whittle admitted it may have been a mistake for Mr Nuttall run in the seat.
“If there was one mistake we made, it was that maybe Paul shouldn’t have run so early,” he told the BBC.
“He’s only been leader for 12 weeks. People hadn’t got to know him well enough.”
Asked about Mr Banks becoming chairman, Mr Whittle insisted he had “always been very, very grateful for Arron’s contributions”.
“If Arron does take his money away, there are other people. Obviously I wouldn’t want that to happen,” he added.
“These sort of interventions are run-of-the-mill, they happen all the time within our party. It’s part of politics.
“I think the difference is, with us, people tend to see a kind of do-or-die situation in virtually every controversy.”
But key Nuttall ally, MEP Patrick O’Flynn, warned Mr Banks not throw his weight around.
He told the BBC: “I’m always happy if people who want to give money and support to our party want to stay in the party but I think the best donors donate and don’t seek to dictate.
“Of course if they are expert in certain fields people should listen to their views, but to have a donor telling the party leader who should be party chairman, that’s a non-starter.”
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