MANDRAKE: Farage must name secret Brexit backer

Nigel Farage listens to a debate in the European parliament. Photograph: AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badi

Nigel Farage listens to a debate in the European parliament. Photograph: AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias. - Credit: AP

MEP rules mean Nigel Farage must declare who paid for his flight to Strasbourg, Losses mount up for Arron Banks and why Adam Boulton is the king of College Green explains TIM WALKER.

Former leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage and businessman Richard Tice. Picture: Jack

Former leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage and businessman Richard Tice. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

Within one month, the mystery of who funds Nigel Farage's jet-set lifestyle could finally be revealed.

In an interview with Matt Frei for Channel 4 News, Farage admitted that he had flown by private plane to Strasbourg to attend a meeting of the European parliament at his own expense, but declined to say how much it had set him back. In a subsequent Tweet, he said that since the broadcast a businessman – whom he chose not to identify – had come forward to pay for the flight.

A return private flight to Strasbourg would normally cost around £10,000, which puts it well above the threshold that would require it to be declared to both the European parliament and the Electoral Commission.

'Keep a close eye on this one as it will explain a great deal if he complies with the rules,' a disaffected former associate of Farage gets in touch to tell me. 'The European parliament is quite clear that a donation of this magnitude to any member has to be declared within one month. It's also well aware of this interview with Frei.'

Frei was not contradicted when he put it to Farage he had form when it came to 'flying around in private planes,' but, so far as I can see from the Electoral Commission declarations, he has not declared any private flights at all. It is the same story with his European parliament declarations.

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Given that Farage jetted to Strasbourg last Wednesday, he has to make his declaration no later than February 25. Watch this space.

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Midas touch Mandrake yields to no man when it comes to admiring the business genius of Arron Banks, so it is distressing to have to report once again on a business under his stewardship running into the red.

The co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign has lately updated the Companies House paperwork for Parson's Jewellers Limited. It shows that Banks has taken on full ownership of the venerable Bristol business following the transfer to him of half of the business previously owned by his Russian wife, Katya.

As of June 30, 2017, the business was carrying a £174,546 deficit – almost double the £94,961 it was down by the year before. Parsons has been up and running since 1710, and calls itself the UK's oldest jeweller. Banks runs it with his trusted sidekick Liz Bilney. Though banished from its books, his wife is understood to retain her property interests in Bristol.

Open fire

Omertà dictates that newspaper owners generally resile from taking pot shots at each other, which meant that the Daily Telegraph's assault last week on the London Evening Standard, its majority owner Evgeny Lebedev and editor George Osborne raised quite a few eyebrows.

The Telegraph broke off from putting out Brexit propaganda to report how, over Christmas, a mystery new investor had come on board at the Standard with at least a 19% stake. It speculated that it might be Muhammad Abuljadayel, the Saudi who acquired a significant stake in Lebedev's Independent in 2017. The piece added for good measure that the sultan is viewed as a proxy for Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia 'best known for allegedly ordering the butchery of critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi'.

At the very least this would suggest that the long-running Lebedev-Abuljadayel negotiations to acquire the ailing Telegraph from Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay – first revealed in this column last August – have ended in a no-deal outcome.

True grit

The news anchors broadcasting from College Green opposite the Palace of Westminster were all trussed up in scarves and overcoats during the recent cold snap. The one exception was Adam Boulton, resplendent in his customary dark suit and tie for All Out Politics.

He owned up to thermal underwear when I asked him how he managed it, but I'm still in awe.

The old pro is also one of the last broadcasters still brave enough to have me on since I unexpectedly metamorphosed in middle age into such a dangerous political dissident.

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