He only had “one boozy lunch” with the Russian ambassador. Then he might have had another couple of meetings. Perhaps there had been another encounter he’d forgot to mention. Now, Arron Banks, the alleged “man who bankrolled Brexit”, has been revealed to have met the senior British representative of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s gangster régime at least eleven times. And he’s not happy at the revelation.
Once again, it is the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, doggedly and inevitably prising the lid off the Leave EU worm can, who has nailed Banksy, helped in no small measure by the trawl of emails which were not stolen or hacked from anyone, despite Banks’ untrue claims to the contrary. The detail has been put directly.
“Arron Banks, met the Russian ambassador at least 11 times in the run-up to the EU referendum and in the two months beyond, documents seen by the Observer suggest - seven more times than he has admitted. The same documents suggest the Russian embassy extended a further four invitations but it is not known if they were accepted.”
There was more. “It is the third time the number of such meetings has been revised upwards … After the Observer revealed a month ago that he had had multiple meetings at which he had been offered lucrative business deals, Banks told a parliamentary inquiry into fake news he had had ‘two or three’ meetings … Last week, when pressed by the New York Times, he admitted a fourth meeting”. And now there are seven more.
So what of Banks’ response? “An outright lie @carolecadwalla , we were regularly invited to cultural events at the embassy including music , drama etc which I did not attend. I had two lunches and a cup of tea with the ambassador over the period. Desperate stuff”. No letter from Mishcon de Reya, then. What about his pal Wiggy?
“Just utter rubbish @carolecadwalla you are a desperate sad sad nutter - for the record NO we didn’t. I am sure your editor @guardian will be making yet another correction”. Banksy agreed. “Codswallop chronicles continue unimpeded by facts”.
So what about that legal action? “If you think The Guardian is not telling the truth. Why not sue them” asked Otto English, but did not receive a response. Nor did those wondering why this was still not considered a story by out national broadcaster. “It is the BBC’s duty as a journalistic and information service to report this. Enough, really is enough” noted Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder. Nick Cohen made a similar observation.
“Imagine if Corbyn had met the Russian ambassador 11 times during the general election campaign and Labour had been offered stakes in a Russian goldmine. The BBC would say ‘this is a story,’ wouldn't it?” One rather imagines it would have.
And Ms Cadwalladr isn’t finished yet, hinting at where she might be looking next as she Tweeted “Great thread on the mysterious Joseph Mifsud, star of the Mueller indictments from @gavinsblog. It's Mifsud who connects the Trump campaign to @arron_banks' great friend, the Russian ambassador, @Amb_Yakovenko…”
Banksy and Wiggy are on check. Maybe, whisper it quietly, they are in check mate.