Ukip leader Nigel Farage declines to comment on accusations that he uses his secretarial allowance to employ both his wife and “former mistress”.
Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday morning (see video above), MEP Nikki Sinclaire, who represented Ukip from 2009-2010, said: “With unemployment still a problem across Europe and indeed the UK, does Mr Farage think it’s a fair use of taxpayers’ money, namely his secretarial allowance, not only to employ his wife Kirsten but his former mistress Annabelle Fuller. Is this a responsible use of taxpayers’ money Mr Farage?”
Invited to respond, Mr Farage told the chamber “I don’t want to answer that at all”.
The website of the European Parliament shows that Mr Farage employs five “local assistants”: Christopher Adams, Raymond Finch, Stephen Harriss, Annabelle Fuller and Kirsten Farage (his wife).
A Ukip spokesman told Channel 4 News the party was “not commenting on cowardly and malicious smears.”
Annabelle Fuller issued a statement saying: “I have been continually hounded by the press with these false allegations since 2006, including having journalists camp outside my house. It’s a shame that as a woman I am considered fair game for accusations of alleged affairs.
“It’s hard enough being a woman in politics without having to justify why I am employed. It is safe to say that this would not have happened if I was a man.”
Ms Fuller appeared alongside the former MEP Godfrey Bloom when he was defending comments he had made referring to a room of female delegates as “sluts” during a Ukip conference last year.
In footage shown on Channel 4 News on 20 September (see below), Ms Fuller is seen suggesting to Mr Bloom “I think people don’t understand the difference between the word ‘slut’ and ‘slag’. Maybe it’s something to do with the lack of grammar schools in our education system.”
Another former Ukip MEP, Mike Nattrass, told Channel 4 News that in 2004, at the first meeting of new MEPs, Mr Farage had laid down Ukip rules, the main one being: “Ukip MEPs will not employ wives.”
Mr Nattrass recalled: “I said ‘but my wife attends the parliament with me .. she would like to donate (quite legally) her pay to Ukip.’
“Farage replied: ‘There will be no exceptions.’
“Later that year Ukip’s MEPs found out that he had employed his wife without consulting. This is exactly what the pigs in Animal Farm would have done.”
The Ukip leader has long known the value of employing a wife on EU expenses.
In a film called the Enemy Within, screened on BBC2 in 2000, a youthful-looking Mr Farage is described by the filmmakers as “the self styled ‘Trojan Horse’ of Europe, whose mission is to expose corruption and waste in the system.
In the footage Mr Farage is seen saying pointedly: “everyone’s a winner with Europe.”
He goes on to explain “I worked it out, because so much of what you get is after tax, that if you used the secretarial allowance to pay your wife – on top of all the other games that you can play – I reckon that this job in sterling terms is worth over a quarter of a million a year to you.”
The rules of the European Parliament state: “In general, MEPs can no longer have close relatives among their staff, though there is a transitional period for those who were employed in the previous term.”
The maxiumum monthly amount an MEP could claim for staff costs was 21,209 euros in 2011. But these funds cannot be paid to an MEP directly. There is also a general expenditure allowance of up to 4,299 euros in 2011, for office, phone, post and computing costs.
This allowance can be halved if the MEP doesn’t attend at least half of the plenary sittings in one parliamentary year.