Next month, elections to the European Parliament (EP) take place, with Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP expected to do better than ever. The party has been posting record high poll ratings. Farage has, by common consent, bested Nick Clegg over two live debates. Hatchet jobs seem to just bounce off him. So what could possibly go wrong?
Simples. The presence within Mr Thirsty’s team of the deeply ambiguous Mostyn Neil Hamilton as “campaigns director”, together with the attention of Guardian Media Group, which caused him such discomfort during the days of “Tory sleaze”, are what is now going very wrong for UKIP, as readers are told that Hamilton has been eased out of his role in favour of Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn.
O’Flynn, formerly at the Daily Express during the time when the paper became firmly established as the “Daily UKIP”, with its barrage of anti-EU front pages that were almost exclusively totally untrue, has been brought in to helpfully spin the message of the Farage fringe, and, although he is keeping schtum on Twitter, has had to dig deep to explain Hamilton’s move.
“The party leadership decided we were entering a particularly active phase of the campaign, where communicating the message becomes the most important thing. As a result of that, the leader and chairman asked me to take on the additional role of campaigns director early in March”, “Lunchtime” told the Observer, managing not to mention the disgraced former Tatton MP.
Hamilton, according to the paper, has “upset colleagues by publicly accusing Ukip's main donor, Yorkshire-based tycoon Paul Sykes, of failing to deliver the finances he had promised”. As a result, Sykes “said the party wouldn't see a penny of his money if Neil was in charge of the campaign”. And “There is widespread resentment of Hamilton among party members who see him as a ‘Tory with baggage’”.
That baggage extended to the Guardian famously denouncing Hamilton as “A Liar And A Cheat” after his legal action against the paper collapsed. Now he’s been welcomed by UKIP and made a party vice-chairman. And he’s been joined recently by convicted former Tory council leader Brian Silvester, whose ward near Crewe is just down the road from Hamilton’s former constituency.
So far, only the Guardian and Observer are reporting this story. But then, for some time, these were the only titles covering Phonehackgate. Patrick O’Flynn has said “I don't think there's anything specific directed at Neil”, but that might just change if the story spreads and all those prospective Euro-votes get endangered by a raking over of the less than fortunate past of Neil Hamilton.
And UKIP have no-one else to blame: they let him in. They can have no complaints.