Arron Banks to launch rival Ukip movement after membership suspension row
Major Ukip donor Arron Banks has vowed to build a rival movement after accusing party bosses of suspending his membership.
Mr Banks, a close ally of former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, admitted his membership had lapsed in January but claimed he was blocked when he tried to reapply.
Striking a defiant tone he said he would be "concentrating" on his new project, which he jokingly branded "Ukip 2.0, the force awakens".
But party insiders said Mr Banks would probably be allowed to re-join “if he behaves himself and stops attacking the party”.
The row exploded after the millionaire announced the alleged suspension on Twitter “apparently for saying current leadership couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding”.
Last month Mr Banks, who has pumped more than £1m into Ukip coffers, demanded to be made chairman of the party so he could stop it “being run like a jumble sale”, but his offer was rejected.
He also angered party insiders with his vow to stand against Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell - a hate figure for Mr Banks - at the next election.
In a statement, Mr Banks said: “Ukip has somehow managed to allow my membership to lapse this year despite having given considerably more than the annual membership fee over the past 12 months.
"On reapplying I was told my membership was suspended pending my appearance at a NEC meeting. Apparently, my comments about the party being run like a squash club committee and Mr Carswell have not gone down well.
"I now realise I was being unfair to squash clubs all over the UK and I apologise to them."
He added: “We will now be concentrating on our new movement.” And he bolstered the claim with a quip on Twitter:
A spokesman for Mr Banks confirmed: “We are now full speed ahead with the movement.”
CARSWELL HITS BACK AT BANKS
But Mr Carswell swiped back at Mr Banks by suggesting his rival candidacy would be similar to that of ‘Lord Ha Ha Woof Woof’, who stood in Clacton in 2015.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: "It's always sad when UKIP loses one of its 40,000 members."
In reference to a party feud about Mr Farage being granted an honour, added: "I have no more say in NEC decisions at UKIP than I do in who gets a knighthood."
And on Mr Banks' threat to stand against him, he added: "Each time I've stood there've been some wonderfully colourful characters on the ballot paper.
"I even had a chap who changed his name by deed poll to Lord Ha Ha Woof Woof. I'm sure at the next election there'll be some colourful characters too - the more the merrier."
Meanwhile a Ukip insider backed up the party line that Mr Banks’ membership had lapsed, adding: “He ignored letters and phone calls which are logged on our systems and then claimed never to receive them.”
The source added: “He’s currently attempting to re-join. If he behaves himself and stops attacking the party, its leader and elected representatives then I would imagine acceptance would be a mere formality.”