Express Owner Desmond Hands £300k To UKIP

The newspaper proprietor is to bolster the party’s election war chest with a £300,000 donation, Sky News learns.

The Daily Express owner Richard Desmond has agreed to donate £300,000 to UKIP, bolstering the party’s war chest less than five months before the general election.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Desmond pledged the money to help Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, ahead of a poll which some political commentators believe could result in the party holding the balance of power at Westminster.

Mr Desmond and Mr Farage are understood to have discussed the businessman’s donation at a meeting earlier this month.

Richard Desmond

Mr Desmond has amassed one of Britain’s largest fortunes

It was unclear on Friday whether Mr Desmond has actually handed over the money yet or merely committed to doing so.

The news of Mr Desmond’s impending financial support for the party strongly increases the prospect of the Express newspaper titles endorsing UKIP ahead of next May’s poll.

Mr Desmond has expressed public support for Mr Farage’s immigration policies and the extent of Brussels’ influence over Britain’s domestic affairs.

A recent Daily Express leader column reflected the stance of its proprietor: “Nigel Farage’s message is hugely popular across Britain. Huge numbers of people are sick of the EU, sick of mass immigration and sick of a political elite that refuses to listen to the electorate,” it said.

The media tycoon is also understood to have pledged additional financial backing for UKIP during his discussions with Mr Farage, although it is unclear how large future sums might involve.

“He is sitting on a billion pounds of cash,” one ally of Mr Desmond’s said.

There has been speculation that Mr Desmond could be recommended for a peerage by Mr Farage, although some have suggested that the Jewish newspaper owner becoming closer to the party could be complicated by UKIP’s affiliation with controversial right-wing parties elsewhere in Europe.

In October, Mr Desmond appointed Lord Stevens, the UKIP peer and former chairman of Express Newspapers, as his company’s deputy chairman.

Mr Desmond has amassed one of Britain’s largest fortunes from a long career in the media industry.

His ownership of Channel 5, the terrestrial television group, illustrated his talent for transforming the performance of struggling media properties.

Having acquired it for just over £100m in 2010, he sold the business earlier this year to Viacom, the US media group, for a headline-grabbing price of £450m.

Through his Northern & Shell holding company, Mr Desmond also owns the Daily Star and its Sunday sister title, and a portfolio of adult-TV channels.

His backing for UKIP is likely to be interpreted as a blow to David Cameron, who has been courting Mr Desmond’s support and recently attended a fundraising event for a Jewish charity for which the Express-owner has raised huge sums of money.

It is relatively unusual for national newspaper proprietors to make such substantial political donations, although Mr Desmond himself gave who gave £100,000 to Labour during Tony Blair’s leadership.

UKIP has attracted a number of other prominent financial backers, including Paul Sykes, a businessman, who pledged a further £1.5m to the party.

However, the Financial Times reported on Friday that “war” had broken out at the top of UKIP over the candidacy of the former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton.

Stuart Wheeler, the party’s second-largest donor, is reported to have threatened to curb his financial contributions if Mr Hamilton does not get a seat.

The donor is also said to have claimed UKIP is running out of money.

Although changes in the media landscape have made the endorsement of national newspapers less significant than in the past, the main party leaders still view their support at general elections as being of importance.

Mr Desmond declined to comment. UKIP did not respond to requests for comment.

From Sky News . Report by  By Mark Kleinman, City Editor. 12.12.14.

Liveraf Comment. No, it isn’t April 1st and this isn’t one of the outlandish tales of Baron Munchausen. This is Sky News, a part of the massive media empire of Rupert Murdoch, sounding off about the manipulation of the political process by a fellow newspaper magnate. Surely Mark Kleinman can’t have forgotten that famous newspaper headline, “It was the Sun what won it” ? Nor is he likely to be unaware that The Sun is also part of the Murdoch empire. What was that about the pot calling the kettle black?

Still, we have to be grateful to Mr Kleinman. Now we really know who’s pulling the UKIP strings, and those of Nigel Farage.

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