Ukip defector Bashir: did he jump or was he pushed?
As Tories celebrate the defection of a Ukip MEP, Farage claims he had already been suspended
Did the Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir, whose defection to the Tories was announced at the weekend, jump or was he pushed? And if the latter, have the Conservatives properly vetted him?
Bashir’s defection, following a private meeting with David Cameron in the PM’s Cotswolds constituency on Friday, was supposed to be a “deliciously chilled serving of revenge against Nigel Farage”, as the Daily Telegraph put it, for stealing two Tory MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, last autumn.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Bashir, born in Pakistan, said he had encountered racism within Ukip and that the party had become a “vanity project” for the increasingly dictatorial leader, Nigel Farage. David Cameron announced that he was “very proud” to have Bashir sitting as a Conservative.
But when Farage was asked about the defection by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday morning, he claimed the Yorkshire and Humber MEP had already been suspended by Ukip when he met Cameron.
Farage said the party had become “increasingly alarmed” about various allegations of impropriety: these included Bashir supposedly not telling the truth about the alleged employment of illegal immigrants in a family restaurant business, “some big questions in Brussels about money” and “links with political extremists from Pakistan”.
Tory chairman Grant Shapps dismissed all these claims, saying it was “absolutely desperate stuff” invented by Ukip in an effort to hide their embarrassment at the defection.
Then the Respect MP George Galloway stepped in, saying his party has de-selected Bashir as a council candidate ahead of the 2012 local elections. “Clearly Bashir does not have any real political principles or commitment, only naked opportunism and self-interest,” Galloway said.
Again Shapps said this was nonsense – while a report posted by The Guardian last night listed answers to each of the accusations made against Bashir:
The Respect story: A spokesman for Bashir told The Guardian he had never had anything to do with Respect.
The Brussels questions: Bashir says he has no idea what the Ukip leader was talking about.
The illegal immigrants: A Conservative spokesman admitted that a restaurant run by Bashir’s sons had been fined for employing illegal immigrants. But “Farage himself actually defended Bashir when this first emerged, saying that Bashir was not running it.”
The Pakistan extremists: This allegation, said Bashir, related to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a legitimate political party he had met in connection with his role as a member of the European parliament’s human rights committee.
Questioned about Bashir on the Today programme this morning, and asked whether the Tories knew enough about their new high-profile recruit, Chancellor George Osborne said: “I am certainly not aware of something I should be worried about.”
Will that be the last of it? Don’t bank on it.