While investigations continue into how the alleged “man who bankrolled Brexit” Arron Banks managed to find £8 million to donate (or loan) to Leave EU and other similarly minded groups during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, others have been busy telling anyone who will listen that there is nothing to see here, and that we should all move along. One of their number is mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott.
Isabel Oakeshott - butter wouldn't melt
In pursuit of her “look over there” campaign, Ms Oakeshott turned up on the BBC’s Politics Live yesterday, where she had to contend with an insistent Sonia Sodha of the Observer, which has made the running on Banks’ Brexit bumper bonus bonanza and its potential origins. Her excuses began as Tory MP Chris Skidmore spelled out the donation rules.
“Donations from foreign bodies are illegal, regardless of whether that’s within the electoral period or not … you’ve got to be on the electoral register to make a political donation” he told host Jo Coburn. Ms Oakeshott was in like a flash. “It wasn’t a party … Leave EU wasn’t a party … it barely existed at that point” she pleaded.
By now, anyone investigating breaches of electoral law should have been alerted to Ms Oakeshott’s implicit admission - she is excusing foreign donations to Leave EU. And doing it while deploying the usual deflection and projection tactics.
These were on display as Ms Coburn challenged her “Would you support a Mueller-style investigation into this question of foreign money in the referendum?” Off went Ms Oakeshott. “I would support an investigation into fundraising by the Remain side … an investigation on both sides that gave equal attention”. Ms Sodha pointed out that there was no evidence that Remain had done anything wrong.
She then pointed out that the Observer investigation had revealed there was communication between Arron Banks and Steve Bannon. Back came a sneering Ms Oakeshott: “Big wows … big wows”. Questions about where Banks’ £8 million came from? Deflection once more: “I just don’t think people are talking about this down the pub”. It was all going so well. But then Ms Coburn pitched the $64,000 question.
“It’s the first time on the programme, Isabel, since the National Crime Agency launched an investigation into Arron Banks”. “I’m not here to defend Arron Banks” protested Ms Oakeshott, but she was not getting off quite so easily. Ms Coburn continued “but you wrote a book about Mr Banks’ exploits in the referendum campaign. Have the Police been in contact with you?” No they hadn’t. The questioning continued.
“I’m asking because you said you became privy to a great many secrets during your time working with Arron Banks. Were you aware of any wrongdoing or illegality?”
And the answer? “In relation to what?” Not “No I wasn’t, don’t be daft, Banksy wouldn’t do anything like that”, but a defensive “In relation to what?” which leaves open the door to there having indeed been wrongdoing or illegality.
The NCA may already be poring over that Politics Live transcript. And if they haven’t already, they bloody well should be in very short order. Oh what a giveaway.
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