8 Aug 2013

The publishers and knights bankrolling Ukip – FactCheck

This week the senior Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom was at the centre of a racism row after he was filmed telling people he didn’t think £1 billion a month should go to “bongo bongo land”.

Much has been said about whether he was a racist or not – he says not – and about the merits, or demerits, of overseas aid, where it is spent and how it is spent. We’ve FactChecked what he said on aid spending, and found some of it was right, and some was wrong.

But we also wondered about who’s bankrolling Ukip. After all, if they want to be taken seriously as a big political hitter, they’ll need to get the FactCheck treatment.

The analysis

Since 2001, Ukip has received the sum total of £7,075,092.56 in donations, according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission. (The party was technically founded in 1993, but the Electoral Commission’s data doesn’t go back that far).

The donor who stands out is Paul Sykes, the Yorkshire businessman and property developer. He used to be a Tory member but later turned to Ukip. Either individually, through his company, the Paul Sykes Group Ltd or through his Highstone Group Ltd, he has given £1.46m to the party.

Stuart Wheeler, Eton-educated businessman and treasurer of the party, was known for making the largest single donation to the Conservatives when he gave £5m during the 2001 election campaign, but he turned to Ukip. He gave Ukip their largest single donation from an individual in 2010 of £150,000, and has given the party £514, 957 since 2001.

There are, however, a few people who are less well known.

The second largest individual donation since 2001 came from someone who has never been named as a Ukip supporter, and that’s Julian Blackwell, owner of Blackwell’s, the publishing group.

In October 2010, he made two donations of £125,000 and £50,000.

It’s understood that he is very reluctant to speak publicly about his support for political parties, but he is known for being a staunch Eurosceptic.

Sir John Craven, 73, former chairman of mining group Lonmin, is another person who’s opened up his chequebook for the party: in July 2007, he donated £7,500, and another £5,000 in December of the same year.

A former director of Reuters, along with a memberships for directors boards for a string of other companies including Deutsche Bank, he founded Phoenix Securities and is also known for his euroscepticism, having previously said that Britain’s prospects outside the eurozone are “bright”. His funding for Ukip has been less often referred to.

But scrolling on through Ukip’s accounts, another Old Etonian emerges as a fan of Ukip, and that’s James Donald Charteris, or Lord Neidpath, as he is known, a former close friend of the Queen Mother.

Since 2001, he has donated at least £54,000 on nine separate occasions. When he’s not splurging cash on the party, he’s sold Botticellis – earning him £10m – and been to parties on the luxury Caribbean retreat of Mustique with Princess Margaret. He also features in Andy Warhol’s diaries, being a former member of the artist’s New York set.

Speaking of artists, there’s also Viscount Michael Cowdray – a British heir and film producer and member of the Pearson publishing family. And 12th richest British aristocrat, according to the latest Sunday Times rich list, and the 10th largest landowner in the UK.

He is no longer said to be involved in running the firm. He’s been described as a “new age hippie” who built a Buddhist temple to celebrate the millenium, and produced Sympathy for the Devil, directed by Jean-Luc Godard in 1968. Contribution to Ukip? £35,000 between 2008 to March this year.

Another name which caught FactCheck’s eye was Lady Yvonne Vinson, wife of Nigel Vinson, or Baron Vinson, the British businessman and inventor. A former deputy chairman of the Confederation of British Industry, he is a co-founder of the Centre for Policy Studies, and a regular attendee at the House of Lords. On 4 August last year, he threatened to defect to Ukip unless the Tories took a harder line against Europe. Lady Yvonne Colin, who was listed as a Vice President on last year’s annual report for Age UK Northumberland, has donated two installments of £5,000 to the party, in February and July last year.

The verdict

There are other named and noted Ukip donors – such as the former city insurance broker, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who appeared on Channel 4 News to admit that he was wrong to claim that Muslims breed 10 times faster than other people.

But FactCheck is particularly interested in the ones who don’t want to be so publicly known.

We asked Mr Blackwell about his support for Ukip, and whether he intended to change his position in the light of Mr Bloom’s comments.

He made no comment.