Why Arron Banks’ plan to target Jacinda Ardern is not going to plan

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:15 13 July 2020

Brexit campaign donor and businessman Arron Banks (right) with Leave.EU campaigner Andy Wigmore in 2018. Picture: Getty Images

Brexit campaign donor and businessman Arron Banks (right) with Leave.EU campaigner Andy Wigmore in 2018. Picture: Getty Images

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Leave.EU’s benefactor has turned out to be the least successful UK export to New Zealand since the 2005 Lions, remarks STEVE ANGLESEY.

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This week marks The New European’s fourth birthday, and the gifts from Brexiteers have already started pouring in.

First Nigel Farage trotted off to Tulsa for what had been billed as Donald Trump’s largest-ever rally, only to find that because of teenage pranksters signing up for tickets, the expected 100,000+ attendance actually topped out at 6,200. An overspill stage that the nicotine-stained man-frog was due to croak from was dismantled before he could even hop onto it.

Next up for us to enjoy was Darren Grimes’ interview with David Starkey on the young campaigner’s new ‘free speech’ YouTube channel. The Dazzler thought the recording went rather well, writing: “It’s so good I’m watching it back again… They say never to meet your heroes, well, I virtually met one of mine and it was bloody fantastic… I love him.”

Bloody fantastic, alas, apart from the bit where Starkey opined, “Slavery was not genocide otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or Britain would there?” Grimes claimed to have missed it, disowning the remarks and admitting: “Hand on heart, I wasn’t engaged enough in this interview as I should’ve been.”

Starkey has subsequently been dropped by two universities and a book publisher, setting up Grimes’ channel nicely as the go-to destination when you’re desperate to get something off your chest, and that something turns out to be several lucrative revenue-generating opportunities.

The comic cavalcade continued with The Leave Alliance, a campaigning group which has been active in various guises since 2014. They tweeted: “These days I’m heavily sceptical of #Brexit and the mess it will surely be”, although in a plot twist which might have inspired Boris Johnson’s attack on care home workers, it turned out to be all the fault of you and me.

“We are where we are primarily because we had to fight for it three times… Remainers own this mess as much as the Tories,” they wrote – yes, those pesky Remainers with their promises of £350 million a week for the NHS, the easiest trade deal in history and no changes to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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Most delightful of all, however, might be the tale of how Arron Banks turned out to be the least successful UK export to New Zealand since the 2005 British Lions (sorry, editor-at-large Alastair).

For reasons undisclosed, Leave.EU’s benefactor planned to spend three months in the country at the start of 2020 and was stuck there when its strict lockdown began. Since May, both he and the official Leave.EU account have spent much time tweeting their approval for populist Kiwi politician Winston Peters, whose NZ First party is in the country’s ruling coalition with Jacinda Ardern’s Labour and who aims to make gains in the general election in September.
Peters is currently foreign affairs minister and even served as acting PM when Ardern took six weeks maternity leave in 2018.

This week, Banks and his chum Andy Wigmore told the Telegraph they were onboard with Peters’ election campaign. “Andy and I are giving Winston strategic advice,” said Banks, while ‘Wiggy’ promised, “I’m going to be on the ground in New Zealand causing trouble – mischief, mayhem and guerrilla warfare in the New Zealand election.”

Alas, this mischief-making does not seem to have gone down particularly well with Peters, who as recently as July 1 was tweeting that Banks was “a top bloke”. By July 7 he issued a statement claiming, “Not only have I not hired such a crew but it is impossible to see how they would even gain entry into the country.”

Historian David Starkey aired controversial views on slavery and the British Empire during an interview with Darren Grimes. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA.Historian David Starkey aired controversial views on slavery and the British Empire during an interview with Darren Grimes. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA.

Whether Banks is supporting Peters officially or unofficially, his famous luck seems to have deserted him. Ardern is more popular than ever after leading New Zealand’s stern defence against coronavirus, and with Labour polling above 50% she might even be able to govern on her own. Meanwhile NZ First, at a high of 8% last November, were below 2% in the most recent survey.

Poor Arron! Poor Darren! Poor Nigel! And poor The Leave Alliance! They may have won the Brexit war, but our side are certainly going to win the right to enjoy Brexit falling to pieces.

Now, to celebrate TNE’s fourth anniversary with a crisp German wine. Cold glass of schadenfreude, anyone?

Leave campaigner Arron Banks is not getting up to the Leave campaigner Arron Banks is not getting up to the "mischief" he had hoped while in New Zealand. Picture: PA

• Read Steve Anglesey’s Brexiteers of the Week - including Nadine Dorries and Mike Stock here.

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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

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