A multi-millionaire Tory donor has defected to Ukip, announcing he will be giving Nigel Farage’s party a £100,000 boost on the day of David Cameron’s conference speech.
It is one of the largest single donations ever given to the Eurosceptic party and is expected to strengthen its upcoming by-election campaigns.
Arron Banks, who has made substantial donations to the Conservatives over a number of years, is the latest supporter to jump ship in recent weeks, Sky News reported.
MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless were the first to leave, followed by the former Deputy Mayor of London, Richard Barnes.
Mr Banks told Sky News he does not believe the Prime Minister will reform the EU or facilitate the UK's exit from it in the event of an “out” vote in the promised referendum.
“I've supported the Conservatives for a number of years but have come to the realisation that only UKIP supports my views,” he said.
“Being a member of the EU is like having a first class ticket on the Titanic. Economically, remaining in the EU is unsustainable.”
Electoral Commission records show that Mr Banks donated £20,000 to the Tories in 2007 and another £5,000 in 2009. Only payments over £7,500 have to be reported to the Commission.
Mr Farage had previously hinted that several MPs and Conservative figures were considering switching to Ukip.
On Wednesday, he told the BBC the move was "only the start", adding that Mr Banks was considering standing for Ukip at the general election.
"This is the beginning of a significant move from the business community who are not prepared to wait for Mr Cameron's referendum," he said.
Bill Cash, a veteran Tory MP, yesterday learned that his son William had decided to stand as a Ukip candidate and taken the position of heritage spokesman.
Mr Banks ran insurance companies for Norwich Union before setting up his own business – Brightside- in February 2005.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies