The desperation of the Leave EU principals at their pursuit by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, aided and abetted by Byline Media’s Peter Jukes, is beginning to show, as both Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore begin to crack under the pressure of nothing more challenging than a journalist asking them questions.
This has resulted in a welter of bullying, threats, lies and hypocrisy played out around the latest instalment in the Observer’s investigation into the less pleasant aspects of Leave EU’s behaviour, in which it is revealed that Banks and Wigmore were looking for dirt on Ian Katz, who at the time was editor of BBC Newsnight.
Why so? The programme had aired a report about Banks. Someone at Vote Leave, identified only as “Harry”, had come up with background on Katz, but Wiggy was not satisfied. “We need personal stuff like girlfriends, if he’s in debt all the stuff a private investigator can find. That’s how we should retaliate”. Note “retaliate”. Journalists report, so there has to be “retaliation”, not a response or rebuttal. And Banks was no better.
He echoed Wigmore, telling “Agreed. Have a chat with Patrick and let’s get motoring on”. Doesn’t quite have the ring of “Get the word out to Camp Freddie”, but still. The identity of “Patrick” is not known, but Banks is a director of a private security company, Precision Risk and Intelligence. What is also telling is that Banks and Wigmore clearly believed this behaviour to be normal, which would explain their response to the Observer.
This is what Wiggy told them: “You will be aware that we have reported you, the Guardian, the Observer, Peter Jukes Bi-Line Media [sic] and Chris Wylie to the police under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. The police have also been given evidence and tape recordings of inducements and threats made to the original source of the stolen emails and how our emails were later then accessed in full cooperation of other third parties that the police have been informed of” (Zelo Street has considered the Police report HERE).
But it is the afters in which the Banks gang indulged that show just how cornered they are - and know they are. Carole Cadwalladr told “Yesterday @arron_banks & @andy_wigmore of LeaveEU bullied & threatened us ahead of this story we publish today about how they bully & threaten MPs & journalists” (see the full thread HERE).
Nick Cohen, who has taken a close interest in this story, concluded “Journalists: if Arron Banks isn't coming for you, you're not doing your job”. That set Wiggy off.
“Trouble is you lot don’t like it when someone fights back, why should we let grubby tools like you Cohen say what they like without using our platform to call you out and respond - freedom of speech only works one way in your warped world” he snapped. But Wiggy had forgotten the freedom of speech he and Banksy had already employed.
Peter Jukes, though, had not: “'Freedom of speech’ … From the team that brought you ‘You wouldn't be so lippy in Russia’ … Let’s [get] the private investigators onto Newsnight Editor … On [to] MPs … Let's target female MPs … Every time they try to dig dirt, they just undermine themselves further. And now they're panicking”. Banks had, it is true, not distinguished himself by his referring to what happens to journalists in Russia.
Moreover, it did not serve Wiggy’s cause at all well that he was also indulging in yet more puerile and desperate attacks on Ms Cadwalladr, such as “You’re officially obsessed @carolecadwalla which one of us to you fancy most?”. What a saddo.
Yet worse was the bizarre intervention on Wiggy’s behalf from Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam: “I know the likes of @carolecadwalla and @johnsweeneyroar think this makes @Arron_banks look bad but it doesn’t. We need to do this more. Biased (fake) journos have no problem playing dirty. About time they got it back”. Kassam would know all about biased and fake journos, as that describes him well.
In any case, as Tim Ireland had to point out to him, “This logic only works if you award yourself victim status, then deem 'fighting with fire' to be a legitimate tactic despite any damage it may do. You also have to ignore it putting you on the wrong side of the argument that allegedly made you an alleged victim in the first place”. Quite.
The crass and amateur nature of this spectacle could be disregarded as some kind of freak show, and to an extent that is exactly what it is. But Banks and Wigmore lashing out aimlessly shows that they are cornered, cannot shake off Ms Cadwalladr, and know their attempt to involve the Police has run out of road.
Worse, as I pointed out previously, alleged multi-millionaire Banks is now reduced to crowdfunding his legal bills. So smearing and bullying is all they have left. And given the supreme idiocy of Kassam, that isn’t going to take them very far.
Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore are out of time and out of options. Sad, really.