Maverick Brexiteer Arron Banks is backing a fundraising effort which DUP MP Ian Paisley has organised for his own re-election campaign – despite the fact that he is in one of Northern Ireland’s safest seats, with no expectation that he will lose.
Mr Banks, the controversial businessman who for years bankrolled Ukip and now funds Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, has been close to Mr Paisley for several years.
On Wednesday, Mr Banks’ Leave.EU organisation tweeted to its 279,000 followers to advertise the MP’s fund-raiser which is on a crowd-funding website.
Mr Banks had backed Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with the DUP which the party opposes and which would involve a trade border in the Irish Sea.
In a Twitter message on Wednesday, Leave.EU said: “Brexiteer Ian Paisley has been fighting for Brexit and for our Union for years in Parliament. This election is key – make sure he gets returned on December 12 by backing his crowdfunder”, and linked to a page on which £100 had been donated within 24 hours, with a target of £5,000.
Mr Paisley’s salary as an MP is almost £80,000. On top of that, he has received thousands of pounds worth of free holidays and other expensive gifts which have been registered with the Commons.
Mr Paisley received two free tickets to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and hospitality worth £1,220 on Sunday July 14. He also received two Premiership football tickets and hospitality worth £1,000 in March of this year.
A DUP spokesman said that “any money raised using this forum is done in accordance with all legal and regulatory obligations” and that the DUP wanted to see “a sensible and balanced deal” which is “beneficial for Northern Ireland and which does not cause economic borders down the Irish Sea”.
Outgoing Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, who is standing for the party in North Antrim, said it was “disappointing” that Mr Paisley was linked to Mr Banks.
He said he was “unclear at the minute if Mr Banks is providing a similar support to any other DUP candidate” or if Mr Paisley was “unique in being singled out”.