Just when it looked like a bad week indeed for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a fillip of good cheer came with the announcement that Richard Desmond had pledged a £300,000 donation to Party funds. This will prove very handy, especially as one of UKIP's bigger donors, Stuart Wheeler, allegedly made any further contributions conditional upon securing a (good) target seat for former Conservative MP, Neil Hamilton. It's a sure bet that Mr Desmond's newspapers, the Daily Express and Daily Star, will henceforth swing behind the Party – one could say that he is "putting his money where his mouth is".
Although UKIP has seriously split the right-wing vote in England – doing likewise in the others parts of the UK doesn't have nearly the same consequences for the Conservative Party's ability to retain power after May 2015's General Election – and could well result in Labour getting the biggest number of seats, it rarely faces any serious challenges from the media.
That changed after the Party's General Secretary, Roger Bird, was suspended on full pay pending an investigation into "allegations of impropriety". The allegations against the former Conservative councillor were brought to light on 8 December and had been made by Mrs Natasha Bolter who had recently jumped ship from Labour Party politics in Tower Hamlets.
Mrs Bolter, of Indian and Colombian parentage, had been a real catch for UKIP and was their initial choice of candidate for the constituency of South Basildon but has since quit UKIP "in disgust". Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular storm in a bra cup, I can only agree with Jane Merrick who wrote in the I on 11 December:
"This is a sorry, miserable saga, and Bird has behaved despicably in releasing seemingly private text messages – barely more dignified than an ex-boyfriend posting 'revenge porn' on the internet."
The BBC reported that Mr Bird's disciplinary hearing had taken place on 12 December with a decision likely after the weekend but even before this furore ended, UKIP's new frontrunner to represent the constituency, Neil Hamilton, had been forced to withdraw as the prospective parliamentary candidate on 10 December, immediately prior to the selection panel sitting.
Mr Hamilton's withdrawal was because a letter from UKIP's finance committee had questioned his expenses claims as the Party's deputy chairman – a letter that was leaked to, and reported by Channel 4 News.
Putting a brave face on matters, Mr Hamilton went on to fully endorse Essex county councillor Kerry Smith, who had only been de-selected in October – widely believed to make Mr Hamilton's candidacy just a formality – claiming that he had not known "Kerry" had put his name forward for the post. Mr Smith was now chosen to be the parliamentary candidate but has not been able to enjoy his crown prince position for long!
Lightning striking thrice! Or maybe UKIP is just obnoxious to too many people?
In a recording obtained by the Mail on Sunday and published on 14 December, Mr Smith can be heard making very derogatory remarks against gays ("poofters"), minorities ("chinky bird"), other members of UKIP not to his liking, and Chigwell ("peasant hunt"), a village 12 miles north-east of London in Epping Forest.
Mr Smith issued a "wholehearted and unreserved apology", stating that the phone call had been made some time ago when he had been taking medication for an injury but on Sunday evening, 14 December, Sky News reported that Mr Smith had resigned as a UKIP candidate.
Ms Jane Merrick sums it up well in her I report:
"...The saga also underlines the UKIP "Whatever next?" factor – the party seemingly at the centre of no end of upsets, calamities and mishaps, thanks to its roll call of characters who range from the colourful to the downright unsavoury..."
And it could be the balance of power in 2015!