Nigel Farage admits desire to stand AGAIN if South Thanet by-election triggered - and he could bring Donald Trump to Kent with him
PUBLISHED: 16:55 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:16 21 November 2016
Police and election watchdogs are investigating claims that the Conservatives broke spending rules in the constituency last year
Nigel Farage has admitted he’d “have to” stand for parliament again if a by-election were to be triggered in South Thanet.
The interim Ukip leader, who lives in Westerham, stood for election last year but was beaten by Conservative Craig Mackinlay.
However, there have since been investigations by Kent Police and the Electoral Commission into claims the Tories broke spending rules last year.
Channel 4 has alleged reported spending on the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate and Premier Inn in Margate was not national campaign spending and therefore should not have been included in the party’s expenses return.
Thanet District Council’s Ukip leader Chris Wells demanded a full investigation into the spending and has previously called for Mr Mackinlay to resign from his post.
The Conservatives, and Mr Mackinlay, have long denied any wrongdoing, claiming all spending was correctly recorded in accordance with the law.
Mr Farage, however, who said he was retiring from politics following the EU referendum, told the Mail on Sunday he believes the Tories “cheated” in South Thanet and asked if he would stand in a re-run, he said “I’d have to.”
He added: “I suspect one of the reasons Downing Street is being so vile about me – just when I can play a positive role with Trump – is because they are worried this may come back to bite them.”
Were he to stand again, it would be Mr Farage’s eighth attempt to become an MP.
He also joked that he would bring the US president-elect to Kent with him, insisting Mr Trump would love South Thanet’s three Championship courses – the Royal Cinque Ports, Prince’s and Royal St George’s.
Ukip is facing its own questions over spending after a leaked audit last week suggested a European Parliament group dominated by Mr Farage’s party misused around half a million euros of EU funding in a bid to help it win key seats including South Thanet.
The external audit said spending on polling in key target seats and ahead of the EU referendum broke rules which say the money must be spent on European Parliament business and not on domestic campaigns.
If the European Parliament Bureau upholds its findings in a meeting this week, the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) could be forced to pay back tens of thousands of euros.
But the ADDE - a grouping which includes MEPs from seven countries but has a large Ukip majority - said its spending was “fully eligible and compliant to EU regulations” and it would challenge the audit in the European Court of Justice.
A Ukip source said that the party had not misspent any money, as financial expenditure was “the full responsibility of the ADDE group, no-one else”.