Allegations that a “fifth column” of new members attempted to swing the outcome of a candidate selection meeting contributed to the sudden defection of one of Ukip’s prominent MEPs, The Independent can reveal.
Ukip has quashed the results of a council candidate hustings in West Yorkshire amid claims that a group of around 12 new members – all from the Asian community –secured the nomination of a particular candidate.
That man, Hassan Munir, also worked as an assistant to Yorkshire and Humber MEP Amjad Bashir, who provoked a political storm this weekend by quitting Ukip for the Tories.
Mr Munir had been called to meet the Ukip leadership over unproven allegations he was involved in the allegedly flawed selection process.
Last night a Ukip party source warned that unless action is taken “in a month or two this fifth column will have enough members to throw out the entire branch”.
Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, has described what took place at the hustings meeting as “gerrymandering” – although all those involved deny any wrongdoing. Mr Bashir has dismissed the allegations as “a crude attempt” to smear him, insisting there was not “a shred of truth” to the claims.
The Independent understands that two Ukip hustings meeting took place in West Yorkshire in the last month. At one, two well-known Ukip candidates, Owais Rajput and Harry Boota, were chosen to stand in Bradford East and Bradford West parliamentary constituencies respectively.
But the selection of another man, Mr Munir, at a separate local council candidate hustings proved controversial as he was unknown to some of the party faithful, except through his connection to Mr Bashir. Some long-standing local members apparently became suspicious when several people unknown to them, who had joined the party in the previous fortnight, arrived to vote.
It has also been claimed Mr Munir was at the meeting with Mujeeb Bhutto, a former Ukip spokesman who was thrown out of the party after it emerged that he had served a prison term in Pakistan after being found guilty of leading a kidnap gang. Mr Munir denies Mr Bhutto was there.
Speaking to The Independent yesterday, he also rejected any suggestion of vote-rigging, saying he didn’t know any of the new people who had joined the party, nor did he bring any of them with him.
“I believe it’s a smear campaign against Mr Bashir and the party are dragging us into it,” he said. “The other members must have been hostile to the new members, as that’s why they called it [the selection vote] off.”
The Chancellor, George Osborne, was repeatedly forced to defend the defection of Mr Bashir yesterday, saying that he was “not aware” of any reason why the Conservative Party should have turned him away.Reuse content