New revelations expose the depths to which Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign were willing to sink for Brexit
Channel 4 has revealed that Arron Banks, head of the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU, told his campaigners to “keep pumping” propaganda the morning following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by the far-right extremist Thomas Mair on 16 June 2016. Banks did so despite all groups agreeing to to cease campaigning in the wake of the tragedy.
Leaked documents seen by Channel 4 show Banks, the biggest single donor towards the Brexit cause, telling his staff to up spending on its material on the morning of 17 June, telling them to “press it harder”.
Leave.EU, which was directed by Banks but publicly headed by Nigel Farage, relentlessly exploited fears around immigration ahead of the Referendum, and was widely condemned by for toxifying the debate. Serious questions around the conduct of Leave.EU during the campaign are now being asked.
Documents seen by Channel 4 also appear to show that Leave.EU flouted electoral spending laws by moving “hundreds of thousands of pounds into other campaign groups, coordinated campaigning, spending and strategy”, and that these other groups did not declare their relationship with Leave.EU to the Electoral Commission. This included tens of thousands of pounds worth of expenses for UKIP, then headed by Farage.
Since the Brexit vote, Banks has been scrutinised for his meetings with Russian officials in the run to the Referendum. In November of last year, Banks was referred to the National Crime Agency due to his claims that, in relation to his funding of Leave.EU, “a number of criminal offences may have been committed”. Banks has denied all wrongdoing, and Farage has quietly distanced himself from the outfit as the scandals have broken.
Whilst the revelations are appalling, they are sadly unsurprising. Arron Banks has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to shamelessly exploit tragedy, often with the conscious aim of generating outrage – and therefore publicity – for political purposes.
Take, for example, this excerpt from his book Bad Boys of Brexit, in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016:
Ten days to go! I’ve decided that from now on, we should just focus on immigration. The media will attack us, but it doesn’t matter. We will do whatever we need to do to get people talking about it. Today that meant exploiting a dreadful incident in Orlando, Florida yesterday in which forty-nine people were murdered in a gay nightclub by a Muslim with an assault rifle.
We weren’t ashamed to use it to remind voters of the dangers posed by open borders and we posted an ad featuring a picture of terrorists waving AK-47s under the headline: ‘Islamist extremism is a real threat to our way of life. Act now before we see an Orlando-style atrocity.
In June 2017 Leave.EU spread pictures of the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which 72 people died, with an advert for his insurance firm GoSkippy in the corner.
Leave.EU also dubbed its push to get their supporters to join the Conservative Party “Operation Unite the Right”, despite the fact that it was launched close to the anniversary of the alt-right “Unite the RIght” rally in Charlottesville, which left anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer dead after a white supremacist terrorist ploughed into a crowd in a car.
Since the Referendum campaign the group has, if anything, become more extreme, attempting to provoke outrage in a bid for relevance, using antisemitic tropes to attack billionaire philanthropist George Soros and targeting Muslims within the UK.
Banks and his ilk represent the worst of British politics, and,as the revelations continue, should be roundly condemned by any politician worth their salt.