NIGEL FARAGE promised to use money saved by quitting the European Union to inject extra cash into the NHS, as he sought to limit the damage caused by a Ukip MEP defecting to the Tories and embarrassing comments from a senior party official.
The Ukip leader, who pledged an extra £3 billion a year for the health service, hit out at the party’s former communities spokesman Amjad Bashir after his defection to join David Cameron’s party.
Ukip said it had suspended Mr Bashir shortly before news of his decision to join the Tories emerged and Mr Farage said the party had become “increasingly alarmed” about allegations of impropriety.
Mr Bashir dismissed his former party’s move as a “desperate attempt” to smear him to distract from the news of his decision to join the Conservatives and insisted there was “not a shred of truth” in the claims.
Mr Farage said: “We have been increasingly alarmed by Mr Bashir’s behaviour over the last few months.”
He claimed the MEP “didn’t tell us the truth” about the alleged employment of illegal immigrants in his restaurant business and there are “some big, open questions in Brussels about money”.
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There were also claims of interference in candidate selection in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and links with “political extremists” from Pakistan.
He warned Mr Cameron “caveat emptor” – buyer beware.
Mr Farage said: “The final straw on Friday [was] the hustings meeting that took place in West Yorkshire where gerrymandering appears to have taken place.”
When Mr Bashir’s denials were put to him, Mr Farage added: “He can deny that, but I tell you what he can’t deny and that’s his continuing association with political extremists from Pakistan despite us saying please, please, keep away.
“Whichever way we look at this, he had reached the end of the road with us – he knew that.
“My only surprise, and my genuine surprise, is that the Conservative Party have accepted him. Caveat emptor.”
Mr Bashir left his former party with a stinging parting shot, saying that Ukip had become a “party of ruthless self-interest”, was “pretty amateur” and had a “ridiculous” lack of policies. Writing in a Sunday newspaper, he said Ukip’s reaction “sums up what is wrong with them”.
He said: “They made a crude attempt to smear me with false allegations of irregularities in the recruitment of Asian members in Bradford. There is not a shred of truth in any of the claims but it has made me more convinced than ever that I made the right decision.”
He claimed Mr Farage “runs the party like a dictator” and the party had “outlived its usefulness” because the Tories were now the best hope of a referendum on Europe.
He said: “I have decided to leave Ukip because it has become a vanity project for Nigel Farage and because many of the criticisms made of the party are true. David Cameron famously said that Ukip was a party of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’. Certainly, I have experienced racism in Ukip.”
Mr Farage predicted that Ukip would win a “good number” of seats at the general election, adding that meant “more than three or four”. He said joining a formal coalition was “unlikely” adding “don’t think the lure of a ministerial car is the reason I got into politics”.