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Ukip's Atkinson axed as candidate

A leading Ukip politician has been suspended and removed as a general election candidate over what the party said were " allegations of a serious financial nature".

Janice Atkinson, an MEP for the South East, was due to challenge the Conservatives in Folkestone and Hythe on May 7, but has now been stripped of the party whip.

"The party is incredibly disappointed with Ms Atkinson, who appears to have exercised extremely poor judgment in acting in a way that the party has never, and would never condone," a spokesman said.

"The party has acted swiftly and immediately, and just as we showed when we suspended another MEP for financial irregularities, we always maintain a zero tolerance attitude towards acts of this nature."

Ukip's leadership appeared to have imposed the sanction ahead of a newspaper's publication of claims of wrongdoing by Ms Atkinson.

Ms Atkinson found herself in hot water last year after she was caught by TV cameras calling a Thai woman a "ting tong" - forcing party leader Nigel Farage into making a personal apology.

She insisted the comments were naive rather than malicious and said she was "incredibly sorry" for offending the couple.

The latest disciplinary issue for the anti-EU party came hours after Farage renewed warnings that he expected a "very dirty, nasty" general election campaign and urged his party to "turn the other cheek".

Mr Farage spoke in Rochester, Kent, where he welcomed former Medway Tory councillors Tom Mason and Vaughan Hewett to Ukip to stand in May's local elections.

Mr Farage told KentOnline that the suspension was related to " quite a serious allegation that a receipt that was submitted was not all it should have been".

The Sun said it had filmed a member of Ms Atkinson's staff "apparently plotting to make a substantial bogus expenses claim".

" We treat these things very seriously so we have acted quickly - some may say harshly - so we will have to wait and see," Mr Farage said.

"It's as much about how you deal with it and we have shown we deal with this kind of thing very quickly."

The Sun said it had footage of a member of the MEP's staff obtaining an invoice for an event in a restaurant for a sum more than three times the actual cost, apparently with the intention of claiming it from EU expenses.

It said the individual told the manager of the restaurant which hosted the event - and who had alerted the newspaper to the meeting to discuss the cost - that: "The idea is we overcharge them slightly because that's the way of repatriating (the money)."

The £950 food and drink cost of the event, held ahead of the party's recent spring conference in Margate, was paid by credit card, according to the report.

But it is alleged that the staff member negotiated for and accepted an invoice for £3,150, made out to the newly-formed grouping of right-wing parties Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) of which Ukip is the biggest member and its associated foundation The Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE).

The newspaper said it had handed the footage to Kent Police and the European Parliament.

A Parliament spokesman said: "The European Parliament has an obligation to refer any evidence which gives rise to the presumption of the existence of possible cases of fraud, corruption or any other illegal activity detrimental to the interests of the Communities to the EU anti-fraud office of OLAF."

Mr Farage, asked about the allegations after an event in Kent, told The Telegraph: " If what she has been suspended for is right I am astonished she could have done something quite so stupid. I am very, very shocked and surprised.

"It looks like a claim that wasn't made, I am pleased to say, but a claim that was intended to be made that may not have been as genuine as perhaps it should have been.

"It would appear there was the intention to produce a receipt that may not have been genuine."

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