While many observers rejoice at the sight of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage getting milkshaked in central Newcastle - right opposite the Monument - and then berating his security goons “total failure … should have seen that coming a mile away”, and wonder why it had not happened rather earlier in the campaign, no-one should lose sight of the mildly inconvenient fact that this is a mere distraction where the Brexit Party is concerned.
Hilarious it may be to see The Great Man looking so utterly miserable at the prospect of his detractors revisiting The Monks’ 1979 hit and reworking the lyrics - “Nice suit, shame about the milkshake” - this is not where Brexit Party watchers should be looking. Even though it wasn’t just funny, but absolutely intercoursing side-splitting.
Look, it's not funny, right?
More relevant is the apparent exploitation of the observation made by The Italian Job’s Mr Bridger: “Camp Freddie, everybody in the world is bent”. To demonstrate this, Nige’s new party has taken on board a fundraiser with, shall we say, an interesting past. It was the Murdoch Sunday Times that stumbled across the story.
I mean, we shouldn't laugh at others' misfortune ...
“A disgraced former aide to Nigel Farage who was jailed in America for offering to launder money for drug lords is a fundraiser for the Brexit Party … George Cottrell, a 25-year-old aristocrat known as ‘Posh George’, served as Ukip’s head of fundraising until his arrest by federal agents on charges of extortion, money laundering and fraud in 2016 … Since his release from a federal prison in Arizona after agreeing a plea deal, he has avoided appearing with Farage”. But he is now fundraising for Nige once again.
... it really isn't funny. Not even slightly ...
So it is no surprise that former PM Gordon Brown has decided to intervene, during a speech made in Glasgow today, telling his audience “Nigel Farage says this election is about democracy. Democracy is fatally undermined if unexplained, unreported and thus undeclared and perhaps under the counter and underhand campaign finance - from whom and from where we do not know - is being used to influence the very elections that are at the heart of our democratic system”. The media has at last picked up on this.
... except it is. Bwahaha! YES! Double YES! Triple YES!
Farage’s perma-smiling sidekick Richard Tice was grilled on the issue by Nick Robinson on the Radio 4 Today Programme. “I don’t sit in front of the PayPal account all day, so I don’t know what currencies people are paying in” was his explanation. But, as the Guardian noted, “Asked several times to rule out receipt of such sums from foreign currencies, Tice did not do so”. Pundit reaction was less than totally favourable.
Adam Banks did his sums: “If you accept donations below £500 you don’t have to check who they’re from. But if you don’t check who they’re from, you can’t know if they’re donating £500,000 in £500 chunks. What could possibly go wrong”. MP Chris Bryant added “It would be simple for a foreign power or individual to fund @brexitparty_uk by paying hundreds or thousands of £499 in sterling or other currencies as the party does not even verify names. Our democracy is basically up for sale”.
Tice claimed his party only accepted donations in Sterling. The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr was on that one sharpish: “Because PayPal converts the donor’s foreign currency INTO sterling. And while you’re there, can you explain exactly what involvement convicted money launderer George Cottrell has with the party?”
Just to give Tice a practical demonstration, she added “Here’s new one for you. You’ve just accepted a donation in Hong Kong dollars which PayPal converted into £. Absurd to say your donations are in sterling so that’s ok. You are a British political party accepting foreign donations. As a great patriot, how is that acceptable??”
Jo Maugham was not impressed by Tice’s bluster: “Not remotely good enough. Political parties have a clear, positive duty to know whether donations, as defined, are coming from permissible donors. And if they don't know, they have to return them”. And outgoing Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato confirmed “I have referred Nigel Farage to the European Anti-Fraud Office … Farage is a professional political fraudster. We need to know as a matter of urgency whether his 450K gift from Aaron Banks has been used in fraudulent activities which breach EU rules”. That’s why the milkshake was a distraction.
The Brexit Party is the finest new party money can buy. But who has bought it?
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