Raheem Kassam has blown open the doors on the mad world of Ukip in an interview with The Guardian’s Rowena Mason. A former aide to Nigel Farage, Kassam was the Ukip leader’s righthand man during the election campaign and still remains very close to the leader. But during the briefing wars following Farage’s ‘unresignation’, Kassam became a lightening rod for criticism and eventually left the party.
The interview offers his honest take on what’s been going on in Ukip and where the party needs to change. But some Kippers are disputing his characterisation of recent events. The first point of contention is over whether there was a plot to oust Farage as leader. As the Guardian article says:
Kassam claims that even before the election he could see a “plot” coming and warned Farage to no avail. “I predicted everything that would happen – the Suzanne stuff, the Carswell stuff, the Patrick stuff – nobody listened to me,” he says. “It earned me a lot of credit with Nigel that I foresaw that.”
But those who were supposedly involved vehemently deny there was any ‘plot’ to get rid of Farage, before or after the election. I understand that there was a concerted effort by some in the party to ensure that Kassam’s influence over Farage was curtailed, as they felt his relationship with the leader was too close and harming the party’s electoral chances.
Secondly, Kassam asserts that Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, will leave the party in the near future because he betrayed them over Short money, the funding given to opposition parties with a presence in the House of Commons, and is no longer any use to Farage:
Carswell will survive just another six months in Ukip because he is no longer useful, given that the party has turned down almost £1m of public funding due to him as an MP. “Douglas is not worth anything, he has no clout. He means nothing to us now,” he says.
The row over what Ukip should do with its Short money (an explainer here, if you need a reminder) was the latest in a series of conflicts between Carswell and Kassam. Those with knowledge of the situation say that it was not Carswell’s decision to reject sending the money to Ukip HQ. He was apparently advised pointedly by civil servants that proper mechanisms should be put in place to avoid any future embarrassment.
Although Ukip has stabilised over the last few weeks, these disputes show they are still tensions between the various factions. Some in the party have noted Farage’s attitude has changed dramatically over the last few weeks and he is now more cheerful and the atmosphere is more relaxed, although the party is not currently fighting an election. But given Ukip’s history of infighting and arguments, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the briefing wars begin once again.
UPDATE: Raheem Kassam has been in touch to respond to these points of contention. On the accusation that the plot to remove Farage was nonexistent, he says:
‘Well they would say that wouldn’t they? Because we fought off the coup. I’d remind them that history is written by the victors, not the losers.’
Regarding the Short money row, Kassam claims that it had nothing to do with him and insists that Carswell was to blame for the party rejecting the funds:
‘I had nothing to do with the Short money scenario. I never spoke to Douglas about it. His beef was with two other Team Nigel staffers – and let’s look at what he’s achieved: a party with scant resources. Well done, Douglas. You’re a real hero.’