Nigel Farage has denied using EU cash to try to win the South Thanet seat at the General Election, saying he has been victimised. The UKIP leader told the party did not use EU “money in Thanet or anywhere during the General Election” after claims the party misspent funding from Europe.
UKIP misspent nearly £400,000 to fund its own electioneering and to help boost the Brexit campaign – essentially using EU money against the EU.
The money was provided to the European political grouping, the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), which is dominated by Mr Farage’s party and was created by the UKIP leader two years ago.
It was allegedly used on polling “conducted in the interest of UKIP” that was “essential for reaching a significant representation in the House of Commons from the 2015 General Election or for a positive result for the ‘Leave Campaign'”.
The audit found money was paid to a firm run by Chris Bruni-Lowe, Mr Farage’s election strategist, to carry out polling ahead of the General Election and the referendum. It said this was in breach of the rules.
But Mr Farage told Sky News the election polling had been paid for with UKIP money and that the audit had made assumptions it was paid for by ADDE.
However, he admitted that ADDE money was used for polling ahead of the EU referendum and that this was perfectly within the rules.
Mr Farage said: “We’ve been expecting this for years. We are in an environment where rules are wilfully interpreted as suits.
“I’ve understood absolutely the rules. This is pure victimisation. I am the most investigated MEP in history. Look at what the pro-EU groups were spending.”
The money, according to the audit, was used to fund polling in Great Grimsby and Thurrock, Rochester and Strood and Cardiff South and Penarth, all UKIP target seats at the last election.
Polling was also paid for ahead of the General Election in Thanet South, where Mr Farage unsuccessfully ran to become an MP.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said it was a “disgrace”.
He told Sky News this should be a matter for the police, adding: “The irony of this cannot be lost on anybody.”
A senior party source told Sky News there had been rumours for some time about the misuse of EU money during the election and that the sums being discussed, if true, were “deeply troubling”.
The funding could now be investigated by the Electoral Commission, which said it had been made aware of the allegations by the EU weeks ago.