While much of the party’s energy is focused on the upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP also have local Government elections to fight, and the latter includes elections to the Welsh Assembly Government. Here, the Kippers face controversy over one potential candidate, former Tory MP Mostyn Neil Hamilton.
So the appearance of an anonymous leaflet passing severely adverse comment on Hamilton should not surprise anyone. Nor should any reference to his downfall at the 1997 General Election at the hands of independent candidate Martin Bell, in the wake of Hamilton’s collapsed libel action against the Guardian, over the claim of former Harrods boss Mohamed “you can call me Al” Fayed that Hamilton took “cash for questions”.
No-one should be surprised if UKIP members in Wales are reminded of the Guardian’s main headline the day after Hamilton’s legal capitulation: “A liar and a cheat”. Nor would it be any surprise to see his failed libel action against Fayed revisited, with the late George Carman QC describing Hamilton as “On the make, and on the take”. The cash for those questions was, according to Fayed, paid in used notes and in brown envelopes.
Hamilton has told of “This libellous leaflet recycled a Guardian newspaper cutting from 1996, falsely claiming I took large sums of money as an MP to ask parliamentary questions … The Inland Revenue dismissed these allegations as lies after their top forensic accountants (the Special Compliance Office) completed an exhaustive two-year investigation of all Christine's and my financial affairs during ten tax years, 1987-97”.
But then, if money was paid in used notes and in brown envelopes, there would be nothing for the tax authorities to find. Indeed, Gordon Downey’s inquiry into the “cash for questions” affair found that the evidence Hamilton took cash from Fayed for asking questions “compelling”. One should also note that the Guardian article published after Hamilton’s libel action collapsed is still available online - and unaltered.
Neil Hamilton also misled Michael Heseltine over payments from lobbyist Ian Greer. He lobbied for the US tobacco industry. He joined the cause of the Apartheid régime in South Africa. He routinely failed to register payments and hospitality, including stays at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris. He stood accused of taking a £10,000 payment from Mobil Oil to table an amendment to the 1989 Finance Bill, while a member of a Commons select committee.
Neil Hamilton can protest all he likes at the actions of those in UKIP who are unhappy about his potential candidacy. But his record and reputation is there for all to see, as is his over-zealous recourse to libel actions, which left him with a £3 million bill and facing bankruptcy. He is a thoroughly unsavoury character and anyone in UKIP who seeks to bring this to a wider audience is to be commended.