With the various Leave campaigns in the mire, and the Commons DCMS Committee ready to grill the principals of both Vote Leave (subject to Dominic Cummings rejoining the real world) and Leave EU, it was inevitable that those with something to lose, if only just their credibility, would decide to target chairman Damian Collins in a last-ditch effort to sling some mud back over the fence. And so it has come to pass.
Damian Collins MP
Yesterday, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog opened up on Collins, telling the world “Damian Collins Accepts Donation From Russian Billionaire Friend Of Putin”. This excursion into Ron Hopeful territory was authored by teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, once again full value for his nickname.
Wickham tells “Grandstanding select committee chairman Damian Collins has spent the last year chasing headlines about Russian interference in British politics. So it’s a bit rich of him to be taking donations from a Russian billionaire who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin”. And what exactly is the Fawkes teaboy driving at?
“The latest Register of Members’ Interests reveals that Collins accepted two tickets worth £1,000 to a football match at Stamford Bridge paid for by Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea FC. Abramovich has since had his visa renewal application delayed by the UK government, reportedly due to his close links to Putin. The oligarch was described by the Guardian last month as a ‘big Kremlin player’”. Yeah, right.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears, thanks
Let’s take this one nice and slowly, shall we? One, accepting a pair of match-day tickets does not place Collins, or anyone else, in the pay of the Kremlin. Perhaps Wickham would like to pretend that every Chelsea supporter is a Russian agent? Maybe not.
Two, the reason for Abramovich’s visa delay is well-known. As the Guardian put it, “it is believed he could have been asked to explain the source of his wealth before he could be granted a new UK visa”. The BBC has reported that “Changes to the visa process, which came into force in 2015, mean applicants may be required to prove the origins of their wealth”. And there is another problem for this particular Fawkes figment.
In July 2012, the Fawkes blog went after Labour MP Chris Bryant because he had a column in the Independent, accusing him of taking bungs from Russians (this despite the Indy being owned by a British citizen) in an exercise of routine hypocrisy. That was because the Fawkes blog really was taking money from the Russian Government - as witness the adverts for the Russian embassy on their site.
So The Great Guido has no room to try smearing anyone on the basis of a supposed Russian connection, because they have the clearest and most direct Russian connection of all - taking money from the country’s Government. Damian Collins accepting a pair of match-day tickets at Stamford Bridge hardly comes close to the Fawkes ability to garner proper, spendable money directly from the Kremlin.
The Fawkes rabble are getting so bad at this game that they can no longer even lie convincingly. Another fine mess, once again.