Doncaster Racecourse has been aflutter with rumours of an altercation between Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell and Arron Banks, a Ukip donor who founded the leave.EU campaign – which is distinct from the Business for Britain campaign group. In an interview with Coffee House, Banks acknowledged that the pair encountered each other in a corridor today. He said:-
‘Douglas had a few strong words with me, not the other way around. I wished him well and went on my way. He took an exception to something written in the Guardian’.
This seems to have been a quote from Banks in the Guardian to the effect that Carswell will have to endorse his Leave.Eu campaign or ‘the whip will be removed from him or something else will happen’. There is a rumour is that Carswell shouted at him: ‘you can’t deselect me’.
But despite this disagreement, Banks said he would continue to work with Carswell:
‘Absolutely, he’s part of the Business for Britain group – maybe he’s a little bit put out about today’s announcement, I don’t know. But from our prospective we’ll work with anyone who is interested in getting Britain out of the European Union.’
In response, Douglas Carswell has given this statement to Coffee House:
‘I left my old party and put myself up for re-election for Ukip because I believe so strongly in the need to leave the EU. I’m not sure that it’s a good way to build a coalition of support for Out to have the self-appointed leader of Out attacking Ukip’s sole MP. The suggestion that Ukip is siding with one campaign group or other is simply not so, we are prepared to work with any group likely to get the official designation and if anything, today’s events have convinced me that the group likely to get it is the one headed by Business for Britain.
‘Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings have experience of winning a referendum. But in a sense, it doesn’t matter what Ukip thinks about this or what I think. What matters is who the Electoral Commission gives the designation to.’
Banks and Nigel Farage are clearly close, with the Ukip leader describing his work with Leave.EU as ‘massively impressive’, so it’s likely the Ukip leader will be unhappy at Carswell’s position.
We’ll publish the full interview with Banks on Coffee House shortly.
UPDATE: On the Banks-Carswell split, a Ukip spokesman says ‘It’s not ideal but it doesn’t really matter’.
UPDATE 2: The split is widening. At a press briefing, Nigel Farage has accused Carswell of having some ‘residual loyalty’ to his former colleagues Conservative party.