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A Major UKIP Donor Is Also Bankrolling Michael Gove's Re-Election Campaign

Robin Birley has just given £25,000 to UKIP but is also helping to pay for Michael Gove's re-election campaign, BuzzFeed News has learned.

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A major UKIP donor is funding both Michael Gove's re-election campaign and Nigel Farage's party.

Anthony Devlin / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Robin Birley donated £25,000 to UKIP at the start of April – just days after writing a cheque to help get Gove, the Conservative chief whip, re-elected.

An analysis of the latest register of members' interests by BuzzFeed News shows Birley, who owns upmarket Mayfair club Loulou's, gave £2,500 to Gove's constituency Conservative party in Surrey Heath on 30 March.

But the same week he made another substantial donation to UKIP central office, according to the Electoral Commission released on Thursday, taking his total donations to Nigel Farage's party up to £125,000 since January 2014.

The son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith, Birley stood as a candidate for his stepfather James Goldsmith's anti-EU Referendum Party and funded former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's luxury accommodation in London in the 1990s. A Spectator piece in 2013 noted that Michael Gove was a regular at Birley's 5 Hertford Street venue. Birley has not returned a request contacted for comment.

Surrey Heath UKIP candidate Paul Chapman told BuzzFeed News that "it does sound a bit strange" that one of his party's backers was also funding his opponent. "The Conservatives have a number of large donors," he said. "We'll continue to fight with our small number of volunteers giving small amounts... We'll fight using the resources we have, we'll get out on the streets."

Birley is not the only prominent UKIP donor who has started to give money to Conservative candidates again as the election approaches.

Growth Financial Services, a Mayfair-based financial management company, gave £90,000 to UKIP in 2014, but is now helping to fund the re-election campaigns of two prominent Tory MPs. On 25 March the company, which is controlled by hedge fund multimillionaire Christopher Mills and his family, gave £5,000 to Amber Rudd's local Conservative party to help her re-election campaign in Hastings and Rye.

The company also donated £5,000 to Mark Field's constituency party. Field is a leading Tory backbencher with a seat on the intelligence and security committee, and his City of London and Westminster seat has a solid 11,000-vote majority. He has also been notably pro-EU, which may make the donation from a UKIP backer more surprising.

Growth Financial Services had previously been a Conservative donor before turning to UKIP last year.

As BuzzFeed News has already revealed, former UKIP supporter and hedge fund millionaire Crispin Odey gave £6,000 at the end of March to the campaign to re-elect Jacob Rees-Mogg in North East Somerset. Odey gave £22,000 to UKIP in 2014.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

Contact Solomon Hughes at solomon.hughes@btinternet.com.

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