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Fri 24 May 2019
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As serious allegations about Leave.EU founder Arron Banks continue to come out, the media and political class are complicit in a conspiracy of silence, says Otto English.

Leave.EU founder Arron Banks always seemed an unlikely patriot.

In the run up to the EU referendum in June 2016, Mr Banks delighted in boasting to journalists about the methods his team were deploying to achieve Brexit – while neglecting to mention why he believed we should. When he did touch on the subject it was to say that “power should be with parliament” because (confusingly) “European law is currently superior to British law”.

If Mr Banks does believe in the supremacy of British institutions over those of the European Union he has a funny way of showing it. Last year the erstwhile Belizean Honorary Consul to Wales (Banks) and his sidekick Andy Wigmore (Belize’s former trade envoy) were called to appear in front of a select committee investigating fake news.

You would imagine that the BBC and other major news providers would be all over it. Wouldn’t you? You would think that it would be a massive news story akin to Watergate.

There, the two men behaved like schoolboys caught in the act of burning down the canteen. Simultaneously derisive of proceedings while eager to vaunt their misdemeanours, they happily admitted that they had lied to journalists during the EU referendum before getting up and walking contemptuously out because they had ‘a lunch appointment’ to go to.

So much for the ‘power of Parliament’.


Where Parliament Fails, the Media Steps In?

Since then, Leave.EU official and Banks’ firm Eldon have been fined £120,000 for data breaches by the Electoral Commission for using the insurance firms customers’ details to unlawfully send 300,000 political marketing messages in the referendum.

At the same time Mr Banks has been doggedly pursued by Carole Cadwalladr and others, including Byline Times‘ Peter Jukes, over questions about his money, his connections to Russia and the as many as 11 meetings with the Russian Embassy officials that he had in the months prior to June 2016. But with each controversy, Mr Banks, who likes to boast that “facts don’t work” has simply shrugged, evaded or dodged. Or gone skiing.

The idea that there can be ‘trust in politics’ when grifters like Banks can subvert elections and not reveal the source of his funding is, frankly, laughable.

On Tuesday Channel 4 repeated claims of Banks’ business dealings with Russia in 2015 and provided evidence that a finance company, substantially owned by him, pitched a gold mine merger to a Kremlin linked oligarch just prior to the EU referendum.  

The destabilisation of the UK and the EU is a key objective of Putin’s regime and any links between a major player in the Brexit process and actors in that state should be a source of serious unease – but Banks responded to all of the Channel 4 allegations with his usual bluster.

So when does he get his comeuppance? You would imagine that the BBC and other major news providers would be all over it. Wouldn’t you? You would think that it would be a massive news story akin to Watergate. But no – the general sentiment across the media and political class seems to be ‘yes we know what is going on but so what? It’s too late now’.  The BBC, Sky and ITV news have barely touched the story.


Trust in Politics

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, seems nothing short of complicit in turning a blind eye.

On Wednesday, Labour MP Anna McMorrin asked Theresa May to suspend Brexit pending police and NCA investigations. She reminded the prime minister: “Vote Leave and Leave.EU official (have both been) found guilty of corrupt activities by the Electoral Commission.”

May’s response was an unequivocal “no”. The ‘people’ have decided to leave the EU and for the sake of ‘trust in politics’ Brexit must be delivered, she argued.

The idea that there can be ‘trust in politics’ when grifters like Banks can subvert elections and not reveal the source of his funding is, frankly, laughable. With the clock ticking down to 29 March serious and immediate questions need to be asked as to who actually funded Brexit – and Arron Banks urgently needs to be held to account.

If our parliament isn’t up to the job then maybe our state broadcaster could oblige? I for one shall not be holding my breath.

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