Channel 4 News has been running a series of exposés this week on the dealings of Arron Banks, the alleged “man who bankrolled Brexit”. These had, until yesterday’s instalment, generated no more than sneers and cat-calling from Banksy and his pals, moaning that it was just old material re-hashed. But the latest instalment changed all that.
As the people at Channel 4 News have told, “Brexit backer Arron Banks urged campaigners to ‘keep pumping’ out material the morning after MP Jo Cox’s murder, Channel 4 News can reveal … Leaked emails and documents reveal that despite an agreement by all groups to suspend campaigning in the aftermath of her death, the millionaire businessman instructed the social media team at Leave.EU to ‘boost’ an existing sponsored ad on Facebook”. And there was more.
“New evidence also reveals that his campaign discussed secretly exerting influence and control over other groups, pumping in cash not properly declared to authorities, in a potential breach of spending laws … Banks secretly bankrolled Labour’s Eurosceptic movement Labour Leave, funding at least three figures on its executive board, an office and computers. Labour Leave is under investigation by the Electoral Commission”.
OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY
Oh dear, Banksy! The condemnation began almost immediately, with Labour MPs Alison McGovern and Jess Phillips, who were both friends of Jo Cox, passing severely adverse comment. This called for immediate retaliatory action, and so Banksy’s pal Wiggy gave notice that legal proceedings would be commencing without further delay, honest.
“Proof that @Channel4News did not check their facts @Ofcom but instead decided to smear @Arron_banks we will be coming after @jonsnowC4 @DamianCollins @jessphillips @NickCohen4 @Hayley_Barlow @campbellclaret for an apology for libel and defamation. @LeaveEUOfficial @lizbilney”. But there was a problem here.
The email Wigmore attached to his Tweet, from Banks and dated June 16, 2016 - the day that Jo Cox was murdered - said “Suggest we knock any more content on the head for the rest of the day - restart tomorrow … In view of the news”. But “restarting tomorrow” is exactly the allegation Channel 4 News are making, and Wigmore is disputing!
Moreover, the officially designated campaigns agreed on a longer pause to campaigning. As the Guardian reported at the time, “The EU referendum campaign is expected to resume tentatively on SUNDAY after hostilities were abruptly halted by the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox”. Sunday. Banks said “restart tomorrow” the previous THURSDAY.
So that would mean Leave EU’s campaign would have restarted on the FRIDAY - two days early. Andy Wigmore has - perhaps inadvertently - threatened defamation proceedings, while at the same time providing his targets with the defence of speaking the truth.
Small wonder that ITV political editor Robert Peston has noted “alleged conduct by @Arron_banks during referendum that is an affront to all decency”, and LBC host James O’Brien has put it more directly: “It’s a crowded field, but Banks is surely the foulest skid mark on the rancid underpants of Brexit”. Banksy’s winning no friends today.
And nor will he and Wiggy be winning any court cases. What a pair of amateurs.
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