Hamilton hits out at 'dirty tricks'
Ukip's deputy chairman Neil Hamilton has lashed out at party insiders over a "dirty tricks" campaign being run against him.
The former Tory minister's tirade against the "cancer at the heart of Ukip" came after a letter from the party's finance committee about his expenses claims was leaked.
Mr Hamilton called for the party's national executive committee (NEC) to take action against those involved in the "black arts of selective briefing, misrepresentation and outright lies".
The letter emerged shortly before a bizarre selection meeting to decide on the party's candidate in South Basildon and East Thurrock, where Kerry Smith was selected pending approval by the NEC.
Mr Hamilton had thrown his hat in the ring for the seat after Mr Smith was deselected - only to then be reinstated, prompting the former MP to use his hustings speech to endorse the eventual winner.
Details of the letter from Ukip's finance committee were reported by Channel 4 News before Mr Hamilton had seen it.
The letter asked Mr Hamilton to bear in mind that expenses had to be "fully explainable" to the pensioners who sent money to the party's Lexdrum House HQ in Newton Abbot, Devon.
Mr Hamilton was also asked to state why he charged VAT on his salary from the party during his time as campaign manager in the run-up to the European elections, a job the letter said he was subsequently "removed" from.
The letter, which Mr Hamilton revealed was from party treasurer Andrew Reid, said the committee had been told that the arrangement had not been agreed.
"We have seen the email trail and would like an explanation as to why you did not go back to those who agreed this salary and why you did not make it known that you intended to charge VAT on your salary by charging Ukip through a company for your services as this incurred Ukip in extra costs.
"It is accepted that Ukip would have had to pay employer's NI which is substantially less than VAT.
"What is wrong here, is that you failed to go back to the management committee to clear the arrangement knowing that Ukip was at all times during this campaign short of money."
The committee said Mr Hamilton had already had a month to respond and added: "Please do bear in mind that we receive at Lexdrum House handwritten letters from pensioners enclosing a £5 or a £10 note which they have managed to save so as to send it to Ukip and hence we need to make sure that all expenses are fully explainable."
In a strongly-worded statement Mr Hamilton compared the actions of those briefing against him to the behaviour of the mainstream Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservative parties - the "LibLabCon" as many in Ukip refer to them.
Mr Hamilton said: "It is sad that some people in UKIP have adopted the black arts of selective briefing, misrepresentation and outright lies which Ukip rightly excoriates in the LibLabCon.
"It is time for the NEC, directly elected by the Party's hard-working members, to cut out this cancer at the heart of Ukip which undermines its integrity.'
Mr Hamilton said he had predicted the correspondence about his expenses would be leaked and insisted he had been given assurances the inquiry into claims was a general one, rather than targeted at him.
He said: "A ndrew Reid's letter was written this afternoon and leaked to C4's Michael Crick before I had even seen it.
"The correspondence of which it is part, and which explains my position, has not been leaked and, therefore, a deliberately misleading view has been created, calculated to inflict maximum damage on me."
He added: " The assistant treasurer of Ukip explicitly said to me at the outset that the expenses inquiry is general and not specific to me, arises because Ukip is short of funds and that there was no suggestion of any impropriety on my part.
"The demand now for receipts, when I was explicitly told they were not necessary, may have been in included in this letter to convey an impression of malpractice on my part.
"There are no grounds whatsoever of suspecting me of any impropriety.
"Certain individuals have axes to grind against me and this is part of their continuing dirty tricks campaign.
"Only a small handful of people could have leaked this letter and a glance at the names should make it perfectly obvious who the culprit or culprits are likely to be.
"I have worked selflessly to advance UKIP's interest for 12 years, entirely at my own expense until I became a party employee as European campaign director on September 1, 2013, an appointment which ceased on May 31, 2014 since when I have been unpaid but entitled to my expenses."