EU Referendum

UKIP: life on the dark side


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At the moment, the media is having fun at Ukip's expense, over the issue of spoof Twitter accounts, picking up on a sense of humour failure over UKIP Trumpton.

If mockery has become a new tool to be deployed against the would be "insurgents", Farage himself has come under the spotlight over his comments on breastfeeding. The man did not have the sense to avoid wading into the issue, when he should have said that this was not a matter in which national politicians should intervene.

Nor can one exactly applaud Farage's comments on foreign aid, with him falling in to the all-too familiar Ukip trap of spending the same money many times, this time having him wanting to slash it by 80 percent "to pay off deficit".

That said, his further comment has us scratching heads in puzzlement: "So I'd cut £9 billion from that because frankly it's just being used as an arm of foreign policy", says the leader of the Ukipists. Did he really not know that foreign aid is an arm of foreign policy, and always has been? Is he that naïve?

This though, is all dancing round the edges: it is The Times coming in with the heavyweight story of the day, which points to the darker side of Ukip, and some very sinister goings-on.

In the report, we are told that Scotland Yard is investigating claims that a serving police officer perverted the course of justice by warning journalists against writing about the "political affairs" of a Ukip MEP.

Normally, I'd link to the report at this stage, and just summarise, but we have the paywall effect which makes it inaccessible to most readers. Thus I have to go on to tell you that this concerns Detective Constable Tony Holden, who sent an unsolicited email to two reporters from The Sunday Times and The Independent after they had contacted Gerard Batten over the London MEP's alleged links to far-right political organisations and proposed anti-Muslim policies, including banning halal meat.

DC Holden, who was working on an unrelated fraud case brought by Mr Batten against a former employee, warned the journalists against publishing articles deemed to be untruthful and concerning to” the Ukip politician.

The officer, a specialist in financial crime, wrote that "it has been bought [sic] to the attention of the Metropolitan Police" that the journalists had "been provided material by an unknown source concerning the political affairs of Mr Gerard Batten MEP".

He cautioned that any articles linked to Mr Batten's ex-employee, Jasna Badzak, who at the time was awaiting trial for fraud, "may result in further arrests being made” and requested that the reporters “thoroughly check the sources of the information, prior to contacting either Mr Batten or going to press". He copied Mr Batten's private email address into the correspondence.

One of the journalists replied to Mr Holden, saying that he considered the email to be an attempt to warn him off writing about the MEP and a "potential abuse of office". The journalist also emailed Mr Batten, asking for an explanation. Mr Batten appears to have forwarded the email to Mr Holden, saying: "Dear Tony, very sorry to bother you with this. Please see the exchange of messages below".

This intervention by Holden is described as "extraordinary", and indeed it is – if not outright sinister. But it is one of several instances of alleged police misconduct said to have been committed by four police officers and one ex-officer, all of which are under investigation by the Metropolitan police's serious misconduct investigation unit.

The claims relate to Ms Badzak, about whom we've written before in a less than sympathetic light after she had been convicted of fraud in October last year. Then, a jury found that she had doctored a bank statement and borrowed £3,000 from Mr Batten on the false pretence that she had not been paid by the European Parliament. But Ms Badzak has since campaigned against her conviction, alleging that police officers in the case acted improperly.

More than a few people think Ms Badzak to be a bit "flaky", but then some say the same thing of me. In this case, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said in July that it was "concerned" about her complaints and referred them to Scotland Yard, which is investigating them.

The unit will also examine why Ms Badzak was told on two occasions that the officers about whom she complained did not exist. This is one of the more bizarre aspects of the case, which is triggering alarm bells. Ms Badzak was dealt with by two officers, in circumstances which are turning out to be more than a little dubious, and when she tried to complain about them, she is told they don't exist?

"The officers you have named as being officers of the Metropolitan Police Service are not officers with the MPS", a police sergeant wrote. "I have thoroughly interrogated all MPS systems and cannot find any trace of the officers".

Thus same officer repeated this claim in July last year and it was only disclosed to Ms Badzak in April this year that the missing officers were in fact serving Met officers. But the plot then thickens as a Metropolitan police spokesman is now saying that, "it is not possible for us to explain how this mistake was made", adding that, the officer who made the mistake is "on a career break".

If there wasn't hard evidence about this, then it would look too far-fetched to believe, but the evidence is rock solid. Something very strange is going on in the Met, with active collusion between serving police officers, a Ukip MEP and other Ukip members.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said that he was shocked by DC Holden's email. "It shows that there is something seriously amiss within the police when officers feel that they can interfere with the legitimate work of journalists", he said. "That is the stuff of totalitarian states".

Ms Badzak has also raised concerns that police officers have used the criminal law in an attempt to prevent her from talking to journalists. In November, she received a formal harassment warning for "providing information … of a false nature" to a journalist at The Mail on Sunday.

The warning here stated that she had provided "false" information concerning Annabelle Fuller, a former press aide to Nigel Farage, which had caused Ms Fuller to be "subjected to numerous phone calls and emails".

The Times tells us of its understanding that Ms Badzak did not call the journalist - he called her to check information given to him by another source. And it is this Ms Fuller is under police investigation for allegedly making false claims of sexual assault – as well as theft of property under extremely suspicious circumstances.

Now getting involved is Louise Mensch, a former Conservative MP. She has submitted two criminal complaints yesterday via a senior officer in the Metropolitan police, complaining about the alleged conduct of officers in Ms Badzak's case. "It is clear to me that substantial police misconduct may have been committed", Mensch is saying.

To conclude, Tory MP David Davis also joins in, saying that "the public should know whether this was an authorised intervention in the operation of a free press and if so who authorised it [and] what the basis for it was".

Unsurprisingly, other newspapers have not picked up on the story. They are staying on the safer territories of Trumpton and breastfeeding. The Times is out on its own, taking considerable risks running the story, as Ukip has become a favoured customer of one the most predatory libel firms in the country.

It is itself significant that the party is so quick to resort to libel lawyers – also relying on gagging orders to prevent this being known to the public, but the Badzak case has at last broken through the obstructions, and some of the details are seeing the light of day.

When more emerges – as it will unless the libel lawyers prevail – there will be good cause to look at Ukip in a very different light – especially when we start seeing how this affair links both with Fuller and Farage, who have much to hide, and a very great need to hide it.