UKIP gets ready for the Bill and Ben Show

By Searchlight Team
By Tony Peters

The resignation of UKIP leader Neil “Liar and Cheat” Hamilton, which takes effect in May, was followed in pretty short order by that of deputy chair Rebecca Jane and, between them, these two departures have set off a fascinating chain of events in what was, once, the UK’s principal far-right party.

Hamilton explained his departure as being prompted by a desire to spend more time with his family. In fact, he is already pretty inseparable from his wife Christine (the self titled “Battleaxe”) and they have no children. Rebecca Jane, appointed less than two years ago by chairman Ben (“rogue builder”) Walker, had been suffering from health problems but used her departure to fire off a ferocious salvo at Walker who, she claimed, only put her in the job because he had designs on getting her into bed.

Walker (above right) found himself in some embarrassing difficulty recently when his appointment as a magistrate came under scrutiny. Questions were raised – not least of all by Searchlight on Twitter and our website – as to how someone with criminal convictions can be appointed to sit in judgment over others. The answer, of course, is if the Ministry of Justice is not aware of the criminal record in the first place. Walker, who sports no less than five criminal convictions for building regulation offences (hence the nickname) had not seen fit to declare them and defended this omission by arguing that guilty sentences do not count as convictions if you’re not actually sent to prison. That did not impress the MoJ which promptly sacked him.

But this may yet come back to bite Walker even harder. The making of false statements, deliberately or recklessly, in such an application is an offence of perjury with a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. A custodial sentence is usually imposed even for a first offence. It seems that only the huge post-Covid judicial backlog may be holding up a decision as to whether to proceed in this particular case.

Who’s next?

First candidates to put themselves forward as Hamilton replacements were Lois Perry and Anne Marie Waters. Perry is an anti-net zero campaigner of limited ability but of whom, Rebecca Jane alleged, Walker harboured similar desires and for a while she was his favoured candidate. Waters, who only rejoined UKIP last year, definitely was not: she made it clear to supporters that, if elected, the first thing she would do would be to dump Walker, as would be her constitutional right. For his part, Walker confided to others that he would block her ever getting the job.

In the event, Waters dropped out of the race at an early stage and Perry, who came across as witless at the membership hustings, fell out of favour with Walker, to be replaced by “Bungalow” Bill Etheridge (above left), a former UKIP MEP who had earlier been thrown out of the Conservative Party for posing with a golliwog. His other claim to fame is that he is Walker’s mate. So UKIP may be set to become the “Bill and Ben Show”.

UKIP as a political party is now totally controlled by a curious trust, of which the sole trustee is Walker. So a well-disposed leader would not be entirely unwelcome. But, whatever happens, it’s win-win for Walker. The only candidate who might have presented a challenge to his domination of the party was Waters, who has now withdrawn.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in light of all this, the party’s UK Activists Forum WhatsApp group, supposedly the “top secret” preserve of trusted leading activists, began giving forth its secrets, exposing internal division and the pressure Walker is coming under.

He was particularly angered by a post from Pat Mountain, a former interim leader and deputy leader, regurgitating all the salacious allegations made by Rebecca Jane. Mountain’s ambiguous comment “True Colours” fooled no one and was universally read as referring to Walker, not Jane. Rebecca Jane’s posts attacking Walker have now been deleted (although not before they were archived!).

Walker then took to shutting down group discussion – especially of the leadership election. Hapless NEC member Julie Carter had to be advised by Mountain that “Ben has instructed that there be no chat regarding the leadership election on this group”. That particular exchange leaked and led to Walker expelling suspected leakers from the group and threatening to shut it down or restrict it to branch or regional officers. In fact, the leaks just kept on coming.

The latest topic of animated internal party gossip, however, is the fate of all those bequests from elderly party members which, cynics have argued, are the main reason the expiring party has been kept on life support for so long. In the 25 years or so up until 2021, UKIP benefitted from some £20 million in such bequests. Even in 2021, it received tens of thousands of pounds. However, since September 2021, not a single bequest or donation above £500 has been declared to the Electoral Commission. This odd state of affairs has not been lost on some members, who are beginning to ask questions.

It was precisely because of concerns about the party’s management that, according to Rebecca Jane, other right-wing parties – principally Reform UK – have spurned offers of a coming together. Jane was charged specifically with handling unity talks and, since her anti-Walker resignation tirade, she has revealed that Reform refused to have the conversation until UKIP’s management changed – a demand turned down flat by UKIP’s board. Both that tweet and the one about Walker’s alleged libidinousness have since been deleted.

Results of the Leader election will be announced in mid-May. Oh yes, and Walker is the returning officer.

Hotbed of crime…

Meanwhile, down in that (relative) UKIP stronghold of south Wales events continue to entangle the party in reports of criminal activity. First, as we have reported before, there were the goings on at Stamps bar in Llanelli, a favoured UKIP meeting place, but linked to a major class A drugs importation. Then, the conviction of leading south Wales kipper Dan Morgan for serious fraud offences, and then the unsavoury activities of Paul Dowson, former UKIP Pembroke councillor, whose record includes both drugs offences and ABH. Now, the Neon nightclub and events venue in Newport, whose owners are reportedly UKIP supporters and where the party has gathered many times over the past 8 years (most recently for its national 30th anniversary conference in October) has closed after police found a “large scale cannabis factory” on the premises.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Searchlight

2 responses on “UKIP gets ready for the Bill and Ben Show

  1. Marc

    If even half of that is accurate, why wasn’t this Ben Walker in prison instead of controlling a political party, running an alledgedly successful Design Consultancy etc? Could Mr Walker clarify?

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