Here in the UK, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP may be celebrating their foothold in Parliament, but over in Brussels their campaign has been developing not necessarily to their advantage. One of the party’s key funding streams, the ability to use expenses accrued from attending the European Parliament (EP), has just taken a significant knock.
Squeaky financial finger up the bum time
Why so? “One of the main Eurosceptic groups in the European Parliament, which includes Britain's UKIP, has collapsed after a Latvian MEP withdrew ... The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group had 48 members including the Five Star Movement of Italian politician Beppe Grillo”. You need MEPs from seven countries for an EP group. The one from Latvia leaving made it six.
Now, Mr Thirsty and his remaining allies could try to persuade another MEP to join their number, but here a problem enters. Farage and Grillo are in competition for the somewhere-out-there Eurosceptic vote with Marine le Pen and the French Front National (FN). UKIP don’t want to go in with a party that is perceived as being rather like the BNP, only not quite as overtly racist.
Moreover, the Kippers could face further defections from their group: two of the MEPs are from Lithuania and the Czech Republic, and one reason the Latvian MEP left them was the perception that EFDD was too pro-Putin. Farage and his fellow Kippers could just join the “non-inscrits”, but they would lose access to the most attractive aspect of being in a group – money.
Mr Thirsty has made no secret of UKIP’s ability to maximise its expense gathering from the EP in order to help the party in the UK. And being in an EP group gets a party like UKIP an extra £1 million or so a year – plus representation on committees, and more speaking time in EP debates. Farage complains enough about being cut off when in mid-rant. That is about to get worse.
And the Kippers can forget any sympathy from other groupings in the EP, even the right-of-centre ones: “News of the EFDD's fall was welcomed by the largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which tweeted: ‘First defeat for Eurosceptics! EFDD group disappears with departure of Latvian Iveta Grigule’”. Farage is in the brown sticky stuff.
We’re less than seven months away from the General Election. UKIP has an expensive by-election campaign to fund in Rochester and Strood – unless they want to see Mark Reckless lose and hand the seat back to the Tories. They have to pony up deposits for hundreds of candidates next May. And the only sure-fire way to keep hold of that £1 million bonus is to join the French far-right.
Nige could cut down on his thirst, of course. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke.