I am very happy to announce that Nigel Farage has now withdrawn his false claim that HOPE not hate is a “violent and undemocratic” organisation and has promised never to repeat it.
This is a massive victory for HOPE not hate and the 16,432 people who donated to us to make this possible.
HOPE not hate took action against the former UKIP leader for the unacceptable comments he made on his LBC radio show on 20 December last year.
Responding to a Twitter exchange with Jo Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, he told 600,000 LBC listeners:
“Yes, well of course he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and very undemocratic means.”
Within minutes of making this statement, Farage’s comments were being taken up and spread by the media. His statement was also taken up enthusiastically by his supporters on social media. Both HOPE not hate, and myself personally, received a barrage of abuse and threats.
Arron Banks, UKIP’s former largest donor and head of Leave.EU (the unofficial Brexit campaign), tweeted out another highly defamatory claim to his supporters:
“Hope not hate is a vile organisation that arranged a mass confrontation in a pub where nigel was having lunch with his daughters. [Farage’s] right.”
Breitbart London also began an immediate and intensive campaign of vilification against us. Its editor, Raheem Kassam, a close confident of former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, even launched a crowd funding appeal to collect dirt on HOPE not hate.
We instantly demanded an apology but Nigel Farage ignored our legal letter. We then began legal action.
We did not do this lightly, not least because we knew how expensive and difficult libel actions can be. But supported by donations from over 16,000 people we took action and even despite the ups and downs of the next 10 months we stood firm.
We wanted Farage to take back his words but also to draw a line in the sand over false news. For too long, right-wing politicians have been able to say what they want with impunity – regardless of its accuracy or consequences. But we said: no more.
As a two-day court hearing approached, and costs began to rise rapidly, Farage’s lawyers reached out to offer a deal. Last Friday, after five hours of direct face-to-face negotiations, a deal was agreed. In a statement filed in the High Court this morning, Farage said:
“Having now considered the position further I am happy to acknowledge that Hope not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour.”
Nigel Farage has also agreed to the court that he will not repeat the claim that HOPE not hate is a violent and undemocratic organisation or encourage anyone else to do the same in his name.
I cannot understate how big a victory this was for us. HOPE not hate is an avowedly peaceful organisation and Farage’s false claims were deeply damaging to the vital work we do bringing communities together across cultural and religious divides.
But just as importantly, this settlement sends a message out to others. Anyone else repeating these smears or pursuing a false news agenda against our organisation should be put on notice that we won’t hesitate to take further action to protect our reputation.
It is time right-wing politicians were held accountable for their actions and words.
Lastly, can I thank you Anthony Hudson QC and Lorna Skinner of Matrix Chambers and Simon Gallant of Hamlins LLP who represented us well, and – most importantly – to our supporters – for your unwavering support and for helping us hold falsehood to account.