Today
Mon 16 September 2019
Subscribe

As Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage dodges more questions about who is bankrolling his new ‘grassroots movement’, Otto English asks: why the need for secrecy?

Ever since Nigel Farage revealed, in an interview with LBC’s Iain Dale, that the Brexit Party has had “one big donor”, questions have rightly been asked as to who this anonymous benefactor might be.

It seems peculiar that a ‘grassroots movement’ which sells itself on being different to the traditional parties should be so unforthcoming about something as basic as funding.

It’s also in stark contrast to the other new kid on the block – Change UK (also known as TIG – The Independent Group) which, for all its many flaws in presentation and style, has been transparent from the start. Even before it formally became a political party and had a legal requirement to declare its funding, Change UK revealed this on its website.

One Brexit Party figure told me that this refusal to name names is a “courtesy” as the revelation might result in the individual concerned – and their business – being “targeted”.

By comparison, the Brexit Party has been decidedly bashful. In an interview with Farage on Sunday, Sky’s Sophy Ridge tried once again – to the obvious irritation of the Brexit Party leader – to get an answer.

Here is their exchange:

Farage: “Oh yes I’m really going to tell you his name!”

Ridge: “Well why not?”

Farage: “Because then you would all hound him!”

Ridge: “This is the new transparent politics, isn’t it?”

Farage: “Yeah and we’ll be declaring it at the end of July.”

Electoral Commission (EC) rules oblige political parties to reveal donations that are given to party HQs quarterly over £7,500.

That the Brexit Party’s big donor won’t be named until the end of July suggests that the money was given in the second quarter. Conveniently – for both the cagey supporter and Farage – this means no awkward revelations until a full two months after the EU Elections and right in the middle of the summer holidays when everyone is at the beach building sandcastles.


Showing ‘Courtesy’ – But to Who?

Farage’s refusal to come clean has irked many in the Brexit Party.

The outfit is a broad church, different in make-up to the predominantly right-wing UKIP and – from the insights I can gain speaking to grassroots activists in London, the Midlands and the North – it is proving much harder to hold together.

There are many shades of politics in the new party and cracks in the armour are already beginning to appear – along with some awkward questions. Already riven with in-fighting over the suitability of Claire Fox as an MEP candidate in the North West, Farage’s intransigence on the matter of funding has left some supporters scratching their heads.

It seems peculiar that a ‘grassroots movement’ which sells itself on being different to the traditional parties should be so unforthcoming about something as basic as funding.

One Brexit Party figure approached for comment told me that this refusal to name names is a “courtesy” as the revelation might result in the individual concerned – and their business – being “targeted”. But, what of the courtesy to the many thousands of Leave-voting individuals who have pledged time and money to the party? Don’t they have a right to know who is bankrolling it?

Another source contacted Byline Times suggesting that the donation may have come from Andrew Reid, former UKIP treasurer. Mr Reid responded to this with the very strongest of denials confirming: “I have made no monetary donation to the Brexit Party, if you think a donation is a good idea please let me know!”

So if not Mr Reid, who?

If you like this article…


Digital edition from £29. Print edition from £36.
Join News Club for events and interviews in London.


… to help us commission more great journalism every day.

On Sunday, prickly ‘man of the people’ Farage deployed some classic whataboutery as he fought off Sophy Ridge’s questions. Having repeated the same excuses he’d given to Dale, he eventually lost patience and barked: “Well, who funds Change UK?”

Easy. We know that. It’s on the party’s website.

So now that’s sorted – who funds you, Nigel Farage?

More stories filed under Reportage