What do the allegations against Arron Banks mean for a People's Vote?
PUBLISHED: 13:33 07 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:34 07 November 2018
A massive abuse of public trust will only increase the case for a People's Vote on any Brexit deal, writes LAURA GRIFFITHS of For our Future’s Sake
Arron Banks is a name few of us had heard before 2014. Unveiled that year as a record donor for the UK Independence Party, he has gone on to craft an image as a ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ and became synonymous with the Leave campaign during the EU Referendum. He’s created a national identity in his own right, away from Nigel Farage and company, leading to his primetime appearance on the Andrew Marr show last weekend.
Why did a simple donor, a man whose qualifications simply seem to be that he is rich, merit such attention? It’s because the National Crime Agency (NCA), the UK’s lead agency against organised crime, is investigating Mr Banks and the Leave.EU campaign for alleged multiple criminal offences. In particular, these relate to the £8m funding received by the Leave.EU campaign in the run up to and during the EU referendum of 2016.
We all know when it comes to political campaigning in the UK, there are financial limitations put in place in terms of spending money on a campaign and receiving donations. This is not a new concept, and is one the Electoral Commission has in place for the entire umbrella of elections that take place in the UK - from local parish elections to electing members of parliament.
Whilst we didn’t learn much from Arron Banks interview on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, a couple of things did come across loud and clear. Firstly, Mr Banks seems to have an inability to keep his story straight - regularly contradicting previous statements he’s made about his financial affairs - sometimes in the same interview. Secondly, he thrives on confusion. Finally, he is arrogant enough to genuinely believe he is above - if not the law - then institutions such as the Electoral Commission to uphold it.
In Watford, where I live and campaigned solidly for Remain throughout 2016, we stuck to our true political profile of being a bellwether seat. We ended up having the tightest constituency result in the United Kingdom. The difference between the number of Leave and Remain voters in Watford was 252. Councillors regularly beat that figure with their own majority on an annual basis here. If the NCA (or the Serious Fraud Office, or the Metropolitan Police) proved the offences related to Mr Banks and the Leave.EU campaign, how would the 46,635 who voted here feel? Moreover, what would all the people who voted in the EU referendum across the UK think? Would they feel - as I do - that there has been a massive abuse of trust in one of the most game-changing political votes in a generation?
Let us make a comparison. When someone on Universal Credit is accused of benefit fraud in this country, they are sanctioned and penalised immediately. When a man with a net worth (allegedly) of nine figures, provides a campaign with millions of pounds worth of funding from potentially dubious sources - why is it taking so long to even be investigated? It is elitism at its finest.
Neither Banks unconvincing appearance on the Marr Show, nor the allegations themselves make the case for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal. The multitude of undelivered promises of Brexit do that already. But at the very least, we have a civic duty to write this potential wrong. The people of Britain deserve nothing less.
For our Future’s Sake is a group of students and young people across the UK working together to stop Brexit