UKIP's £10k for Farage to appear at Brexit debate

UKIP received £10,000 in donations for leader Nigel Farage's appearance at an EU referendum debate in Lytham, it has been revealed.

Friday, 1st July 2016, 4:09 pm
Updated Friday, 1st July 2016, 5:12 pm
Sajjad Karim and Nigel Farage at the Breakfast Brexit debate at Lowther Pavillion

The pro-Brexit party received money in the form of private donations for Mr Farage’s participation in the St George’s Day Festival.

One came from festival founder David Haythornthwaite, the other from a local party supporter.

However, the chairman of the Festival says money did not come out of the event’s record charity cash haul of more than £80,000.

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UKIP say the donations were not demanded by the party and were not a condition of Mr Farage’s appearance.

Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, who shared a platform with Farage, did not receive any donations.

The revelations come after Thursday’s referendum in which voters in Fylde backed Brexit 57 per cent to 43 per cent. UKIP confirmed it received the two donations at the time of the Brexit breakfast debate at Lowther Pavilion in April, but wouldn’t say who they were from.

Festival chairman Tim Lince, however, confirmed that one from Mr Haythornthwaite and the other from a party supporter called Peter Street, but stressed they were strictly private and had not reduced the amount raised for charity by the early morning event, attended by 200 people.

Mr Lince, who has taken over as chairman from Bob Gallagher, now deputy chairman, since the Festival, said: “Mr Farage was paid by private donation from two individuals, Mr Haythornthwaite and Mr Street, not the Festival.

“And that did not impact at all on the amount given to charity.

“I have seen the accounts and in no way did the donations made affect the money raised the charities. They were entirely private donations. The payments, however, have angered Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, who backed the Remain campaign, and was the other leading participant in the Lytham debate, which was billed as a ‘showdown’ between him and UKIP leader Mr Farage.

Mr Karim said money was never discussed in return for his attendance, and he wouldn’t have taken any.

“I had no knowledge at all this sort of agreement was in place,” he said.

“Had I known money was changing hands this way, there is no way I would have had any involvement in providing legitimacy to this platform for Farage.”

No-one else on the stage that morning was offered any form of remuneration, it is understood.

The ‘Brexit breakfast’, which saw small businesses put forward their case for staying in or voting out of the EU, saw more than 200 audience members paid £10 a ticket to hear the debate.

But it hit controversy from the outset when it had to be switched to Lowther Pavilion from its originally-intended venue on Lytham Green because of a covenant banning political debate on The Green.

A UKIP spokesman said: “The donations were paid to the party, not to Nigel, from two long-standing donors.

“We received a number of donations during the campaign that went straight to UKIP and we can confirm a couple of donations were received in Lytham.

“Any idea that Nigel would only go to events where he is being paid is absurd. He was massively out of pocket from this campaign.”

The five-day Festival, in its eighth year, generated a record £82,320 from a host of popular events - including a family fun day, golf dinner and a lunch and a black tie dinner in a marquee on Lytham Green – after organisers had set a target of £75,000.

A procession through the streets of Lytham on St George’s Day itself is also a traditional highlight of the Festival and the money raised this year is split between ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Trinity Hospice and Love Lowther, the campaign to refurbish Lytham’s theatre.

Mr Haythornthwaite, who was a panellist at the debate, was invited to comment but directed The Gazette to Mr Lince, as Festival chairman.

Mr Lince added that plans were already in hand for next year’s Festival and details would be revealed shortly.