British Politician and Author
Born on the 25th January 1936, Ashley Mote describes himself as a "journalist turned businessman turned author. Now a regular columnist, broadcaster and political campaigner." Biographical details of his early life are sparse, but it appears that he began his working life as a journalist working on The Farmers Weekly, where he rose to the status of markets editor, before leaving to join Unilever as a "communications specialist". He subsequently left Unilever in 1972 to set up his own international marketing business. This venture prospered for a decade or more but eventually failed in the 1990s, a failure which Ashley blamed on high interest rates resulting from the government's decision to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism.
After the failure of his business he returned to writing and was the author of The Glory Days of Cricket (1997), which won the Cricket Society Literary Award in 1997, and later collaborated with Jack Potter to produce The Winning Edge: The Secrets and Techniques of the World's Best Cricketers (2001).
As a result of his business experiences Ashley became a convinced anti-European and was one of the founders of the short-lived Magna Carta Society in 2000, for whom he wrote the pamphlet Defence of the Realm which set out the argument that Britain's membership of the European Union was incompataible with the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and Common Law. He subsequently drafted the petition which was signed by twenty-eight peers and called on Her Majesty to withold the Royal Assent from the Bill which ratified the Treaty of Nice. (HRH declined to become involved in the debate and signed the bill anyway). Ashley subsequently became a founder member of the SANITY group (Subjects Against the Nice Treaty) which has produced a number of videos highlighting his anti-European views and has authored the books Vigilance - A Defence of British Liberty (2001) as well as OverCrowded Britain: Our Immigration Crisis Exposed (2003).
He was once a member of the Liberal Party in the days of Jo Grimond and Jeremy Thorpe, but left the party as a result of what he saw as a swing to the left initiated by David Steel. Given his views on Europe it was perhaps inevitable that he decided to join the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in 2001 and soon progressed to become one of the leading figures within that party. At the European parliamentary elections held on the 10th June 2004 he was elected as one of the two UKIP members for the south-east region of England. The celebrations were shortlived however as on the 14th June the Daily Telegraph revealed that Ashley was facing nine charges of false accounting and one of making a false representation having been accused by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of falsifying a claim for housing benefit. Just over a month later on the 15th July UKIP formally announced they were withdrawing the whip from Ashley on the grounds that he "did not inform the party of this situation before, during or immediately after the campaign".
For his part Ashley was later to claim that the charges were "politically motivated" and that he was confident that the matter would not come to trial and that the charges would be dropped. When however the matter did come to trial in November 2004 Ashley then set the cat amongst the pigeons by claiming that as a Member of the European Parliament he enjoyed parliamentary immunity from prosecution. This was at least sufficient to delay the progress of the case, as it was not until February 2005 that the Attorney-General formally requested that the European Parliament consider the question as to whether or not it beieved that Ashley did indeed have immunity from prosecution. Although the answer that emerged in July of that year was that the European Parliament was prepared to remove whatever immunity did exist, it therefore appeared for a time as if Ashley had dodged this particular bullet.
After being thrown out of UKIP Ashley annouced that he would continue representing the south-east region as an independent. Somewhat ironically, given that he was himself facing fraud accusations, he became a member of the Budget Control Committee and has since spent much of his time exposing and campaigning against fraud within the European Union and has been actively involved in the case of the fraud whistle-blower Marta Andreasen. In 2005 he joined with his fellow MEPs Hans Peter Martin (from Austria), Paul van Buitenen (the Netherlands) to form the Platform for Transparency which argued for, well, more transperancy by the European Union.
More curiously in early 2007 he emerged as one of the founder members of a new European grouping calling itself Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty(ITS) which was formed by representatives of the Partidul Romania Mare (Greater Romania party), the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Austrian Freedom party), the Ataka party from Bulgaria, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, and included such leading members of the European Right as Jean-Marie Le Pen and Alessandra Mussolini. Established to defend "family life and European civilisation" this group is led by one Bruno Gollnisch, who is currently awaiting a verdict on a Holocaust denial charge in France. The Independent of the 16th January was particularly incensed at the emergence of the ITS which it lambasted on its front page as being a bunch of "Gypsy-haters, holocaust-deniers, xenophobes, homophobes, anti-semites". Such attitudes might explain why Ashley had previously issued a press release on the 10th January 2007 to deny the rumour that he had joined the British National Party.
Unfortunately for Ashley however, the DWP finally got around to progressing their case against him, and on the 17th August 2007 he was found guilty of eight charges of false accounting, eight of obtaining a money transfer by deception, four of evading liability and one of failing to notify a change of circumstances, after a four-week trial at Portsmouth Crown Court.
It appears that after his business collapsed in 1992 Ashley began claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, but then failed to notify the benefits agency of the income he was earning from various enterprises including a cleaning company and from playing the currency markets. Or as the prosecution put it, between February 1996 and September 2002 he received a total of £73,000 in benefits which they alleged he used to fund an "extravagant lifestyle" such as "restaurant dinners, private health care and holidays to the US, France and the Caribbean".
The official line from UKIP at the time was that "We want him disqualified as an MEP". Sadly they were to be disappointed. Judge Richard Price subsequently pronounced sentence on the 4th September and whilst describing the case as a "tragedy" and recognising that Ashley had "worked amazingly hard as an MEP", concluded that only a custodial sentence was appropriate in the circumstances and jailed him for nine months. Oddly enough Ashley was therefore permitted to retain his seat in the European parliament, as under the Representation of the People Act 1981, both MPs and MEPs are only disqualified from office if they receive jail terms in excess of twelve months.
Ashley Mote currently lives at Knowle in Hampshire and is married with two adult children. His other interests include music, the theatre, good company and rugby. He is a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club and president of the (revived) Hambledon Club and a Freeman of the City of London.
- Biographical information at http://www.ashleymote.co.uk/
- Stewart Payne, New MEP for UKIP faces fraud charge, 14/06/2004
- UKIP suspends fraud trial Euro MP 16 July, 2004
- Conal Walsh, Whistleblower urges inquiry into 'fraud dossier', October 31, 2004
- Matthew Tempest, British MEP joins far-right group, January 11, 2007
- The Magna Carta Society
- The Hambledon Club
- Other references to Ashley Mote at;
- MEP found guilty of fraud charges, BBC News, 17 August 2007
- Staff and agencies, MEP jailed for benefit fraud, The Guardian September 4, 2007
- Bonnie Malkin and agencies, MEP jailed for benefit fraud, Daily Telegraph 05/09/2007