Former UKIP Deputy Leader threatens Electoral Commission complaint

By Searchlight Team

Rebecca Jane, UKIP’s former Deputy Leader whose salvo of allegations published in Searchlight last week precipitated a further crisis and exodus of members, has not finished with UKIP yet.

She has now written to party treasurer Ian Garbutt (below) reminding him that in this role he is the officer principally responsible to the Electoral Commission for ensuring that the party meets its legal and financial obligations.

She says that when she left the party in January, she raised concerns with the NEC about how the time that Chairman Ben Walker works for and is paid for by UKIP is audited and suggested there should be an investigation. She is now asking Garbutt, before she takes the matter to the Electoral Commission, whether this was done.

She also claims that she is owed thousands of pounds in expenses from her term as Deputy Leader and is asking for them to be reimbursed forthwith. This might prove difficult: she says the debt amounts to several thousand pounds but this would, according to accounts filed at Companies House, be considerably more than normally resides in the party’s bank account.

Bill Etheridge’s dramatic online resignation from the party has also had serious repercussions. The only other candidate against Lois Perry in the leadership election, Etheridge (below) was a UKIP veteran of many years standing, formerly a UKIP MEP. Not only he, but the vast majority of party activists (and indeed Searchlight) expected him to cruise home against a rival who had only joined the party a few weeks earlier in order to stand for leader.

In the event, Perry won with almost 80% of the vote and then, a few weeks later, after warmly endorsing Nigel Farage and Reform, suddenly announced her resignation on health grounds.

Etheridge bottled up his anger for a while but in the end, couldn’t resist firing off against Walker, the election returning officer and then quitting the party.

Almost immediately, he was followed by Retired Squadron Leader Peter Richardson, till very recently the party’s Defence and Veterans spokesperson and highly respected by the membership. Contacted by Walker to establish, presumably, if he would remain loyal, Richardson replied by resigning immediately from the party. Revelations about Walker’s claims regarding his own military record are said to have weighed in Richardson’s decision.

Etheridge accompanied his online resignation announcement by saying he would not be joining or support Reform. That was taken to refer to his barely disguised endorsement of a theory put to him on a radio show that Perry’s resignation was part of a Reform-engineered plot to destroy UKIP.

This was not the only factor weighing against him joining Reform: Etheridge left UKIP temporarily back in 2018 and a year later approached Reform’s predecessor, the Brexit Party, only to be turned away. Even they, presumably, could see the PR downside of his earlier antics with golliwogs in defence of ‘free speech’. Meanwhile, Etheridge is the subject of truly epic effusions of bile on the leading UKIP activists WhatsApp Group, oddly called ‘Smoked Haddock Banter’.

UKIP is now being led, on an interim basis, by Deputy Leader Nick Tenconi, formerly of Turning Point UK. This creates the bizarre situation of a political party being led by someone elected by nobody, who only joined the party some two months ago precisely in order to be parachuted in as Deputy Leader. No wonder increasing numbers of members are just jumping ship.

Pictures: Rebecca Jane (top); Bill Etheridge (below, left); Ian Garbutt (below right).

Read Rebecca Jane’s open letter to UKIP members here:

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