The Bad Boys of Brexit is an all-warts study of an irredeemable crook massively overstating his role in a fraudulently procured disaster
I’m guessing not all Remainers and opponents of racism will be falling over themselves to wade through The Bad Boys Of Brexit, Arron Banks’s account of his part in the EU referendum campaign, so in a fit of masochism, I’ve done it for you.
There are detailed notes at the end. For the nonce, here are some general impressions.
Infuriating, but enlightening
While no one would be fool enough to pick this up expecting a literary tour de force, it’s not as unreadable as you might think. It was not, after all, written by Banks himself, but by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who, soulless monster though she be, knows how to string a sentence together. And the first-edition text at least, prior to the two hurriedly bolted-on updates, clearly passed under the eye of a halfway competent editorial team. (It would have been nice if they’d decided on a tense and stuck with it, mind.)
Tonewise, it’s a different story. It’s repetitious, riotously unfunny, and unremittingly smug. If a normally proportioned man waved his wang this hard, he’d take off. It’s also pretty dull, unless your idea of a rollicking yarn is a bunch of fat middle-aged men slapping each other on the back or, more usually, stabbing them there. If you’ve ever wondered what Hannah Arendt meant by the phrase “the banality of evil”, look no further than this book.
Banks’s boundless arrogance does, however, lead him to say quite a lot more than he probably should, which, especially now that we know so much more about the people, places and programs involved in the runup to the referendum, means there are some isolated pockets of interest.
Dishonour among thieves
One of the mildly surprising things about the book is the sheer malice that many of the anti-EU crowd bear towards each other. They block each other on Facebook, snipe at each other in the press, hire private detectives to spy on each other, and serve each other writs. It’s like a boring, R-rated version of the Borgias.
And even by his own account, the pettiest, most paranoid culprit of all is Banks. For someone so purportedly keen on “playing the ball, not the man” (p 212), he spends a stupendous percentage of the book insulting, mocking and otherwise belittling every other player on the field.
The principal targets of his ire are the rival Vote Leave campaign (notably Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings), but there are harsh words aplenty also for Nigel Lawson, the Conservatives, most of Ukip (special rancour is reserved for “slanty-jawed, boggle-eyed bellend” Douglas Carswell), the directors of Grassroots Out (“second-rate nonentities”), the director of Get Britain Out, George Galloway (“irritatingly sanctimonious leftwing political hasbeen”, “bellend”), and “Flexciters” Richard and Pete North.
Remember, these are almost exclusively his allies he’s talking about. What’s more, these are his edited, sanitised, fit-for-public-consumption recollections. Imagine what he says and thinks about these people in private. Now imagine what he says and thinks about people who aren’t on his side in private.
The only people Banks shows a modicum of respect or affection for are Kate Hoey (!) and his main muckers, Wigmore, Farage and Tice — and even then he takes every opportunity to scoff at them and minimise their role. It’s a wonder the man has any friends at all.
Socking it to the (common) man
Perhaps the book’s most miserable failure is its attempt to portray a battle between valiant underdogs and the Establishment. You know, the “ordinary people versus the elites” shtick that the likes of Darren Grimes are still breathlessly spurting in a bid to whip working-class white men into a murderous frenzy. Right now, it’s worrying. Here, in its infancy, it’s risible.
Protagonist Banks, the Banks in the book, shows an awareness of bad optics early on when he cancels a swanky donors’ dinner aboard HMS Victory and upbraids Andy Wigmore for moaning publicly about anti-offshoring legislation. But writer Banks, secure in the glow of his Brexit victory, clearly no longer gives a shit.
Virtually all the dramatis personae in this story are either billionaire investors, peers, politicians or wealthy businessmen. And most of the inaction takes place against a backdrop that would give Leave voters a myocardial infarction: Brown’s, Boodle’s, Claridge’s, private members’ clubs in Soho, Belizean beaches, Swiss ski chalets, the Hamptons, Cannes, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. Think Keeping Up With The Kardashians, minus the beauty. And the class.
This isn’t the Ordinary Man against the elite; this is one dodgy, illiberal, corporate elite, narked at having to pay taxes and give its staff paid maternity leave, trying to oust the liberal elite that champions those things. It’s the Meribel bubble versus the Westminster bubble.
While Banks might be a little more familiar with Joe Schmo than your average politico, he holds him at least as much contempt. You can count the “ordinary” people in the book on the fingers of one hand, and they’re mostly irrelevant flunkeys.
If Banks has any sort of grand vision for Britain’s post-EU future, he doesn’t share any details here. But you can bet your bottom diamond that there’s no place in it for Sid and Phyllis from Cromer.
For my money, there was never any vision. Putting hundreds of thousands of people out of a job, taking away citizens’ rights and opportunities, driving carers and nurses out of the country and wrecking the country’s global standing is all just a jolly Beano wheeze to Arron Banks. All that matters is winning and socking it to The Man, because The Man has a slightly bigger yacht than Arron does.
Banks is desperate to be seen as a sort of Robin Hood figure, a roguish champion of the people; but this is a Friar Tuck-shaped Robin Hood, who lives in a castle bigger than the Sheriff of Nottingham’s, and who instead of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, steals from everyone to give to himself and his Merry Fucking Crooks.
A head for sin and a body for business
While Banks doesn’t actually confess to any crimes — he’s not that stupid — the whole book drips with dodginess.
He starts off by boasting that both of the book’s two protagonists, himself and Andy Wigmore, were expelled from school for theft, and it goes downhill from there. Almost everyone he consorts with is arrested or under investigation at some point. George Cottrell. Lord Ashcroft. Richard Tice. Jim Mellon. Roger Stone. Jason Miller.
And there are 100pt comic sans question marks over practically every episode. The Love Saves The Day charity. The diamond mines. The GoSkippy data. Goddard Gunster. The Russian ambassador. Banks clearly has zero respect for the rule of law — every mention of the Electoral Commission, HMRC, or any other legal entity is accompanied by a snort — and one of the main threads of the book is his battle to circumnavigate spending limits. He practically admits that his modus operandi is to bend and break laws and worry about it afterwards.
I suspect the only reason he hasn’t yet been brought to book is that he has powerful friends and extremely expensive lawyers.
At one point in the book, he says he will “do anything” to win the referendum. It’s hard to imagine that rampant cheating would be excluded from that list.
There’s no smoking gun here. But there are five used rounds, a receipt from a gun shop, and a set of grubby fingerprints a few inches lower than you would expect on the wall.
Ming the Clueless
Sure, so Banks backed the winning horse in the EU referendum and the 2016 US elections. But those are the sole victories in a campaign otherwise characterised by laziness, incompetence and rank stupidity. First, he and Farage crash and burn in Thanet South. Then he backs Steven Woolfe as UKIP leader. Then the Leave.EU campaign loses the official designation to Vote Leave. Then there’s the Brexit song, the Brexit essay contest, the Brexit concert, the Brexit movie, coming out for Leadsom and Fox as Tory leader, backing Diane James for UKIP leader … Everything the man touches turns to shit.
For all his boasting that he single-handedly won it for Brexit and Trump (while Wigmore is a constant presence in the book, Banks is careful to ridicule him at every turn and deny him credit for anything, while Farage is portrayed as a snivelling wreck and Tice as a bimbo), it’s clear even to the casual reader that both campaigns succeeded in spite, rather than because of this malevolent gnome. Banks was just a chancer with a bucket of cash who happened to pick the right side — which he promptly did his level best to eliminate with friendly fire.
Sure, pushing the well-worn immigration buttons worked well enough; but any twat could have done that, as many have done for centuries. None of the good ideas were Banks’s, none of the technology was his, and he wasn’t exactly a convincing TV pundit. He’s no writer, as the ghosting by Oakeshott proves, and he’s not even very good at lying.
Banks will die before admitting it, but Leave won only because it possessed the twin nuclear weapons of Cambridge Analytica’s psychological profiling and real-time advertising technology, and lies about immigration and Muslims.
In a way, the book’s title is apt. Sure, being aged between 52 and 54, the protagonists certainly aren’t boys by the dictionary definition. Nor are they “bad boys” in the cuddly, idiomatic sense. There’s no Will Smith or Martin Lawrence in this line-up, and there’s certainly no George Michael (although Wigmore could serve as a passable cunt double for Andrew Ridgeley).
They are, however, truly execrable human beings.
In any other reality, Banks would by all rights have been a knock-off DVD salesman or a promoter of illegal bareknuckle fights. It’s only in our universe — curse our luck — that the stars aligned perfectly and elevated him to the level of dull James Bond villain.
It is depressingly predictable to note that at no point in the book is Banks ever found to be reading anything, or doing any research of any sort. He knows what he knows about the European Union — presumably based on a quick scan of the redtops over breakfast — and that is all he will ever know.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the haunted pencil, features in the book just twice, and in minor roles, not particularly connected with the Leave campaign. Did he deliberately keep a low profile until he saw which way the wind was blowing?
It transpires that Farage is a bit of a self-doubting snowflake, who crumples at the slightest criticism. No great surprise there, but it’s good to get independent confirmation that prison will utterly annihilate the slimeball.
Banks has a wife and five children. He mentions them once, and in the course of a year, spends one solitary afternoon with one of his kids when he gets injured playing rugby. Lord only knows how those poor souls will turn out.
(Oh, and by the by, Arron, I’m afraid my acquisition of your book will not have swelled your bank balance by much. Sue Ryder, 50p.)
Dem notes, innit
xxi. Both Banks and his literal partner in crime, Andy “Wiggy” Wigmore, were expelled from school for theft.
xiii. “Peter Hargreaves … thinks British finance industry will thrive free of the Brussels straitjacket.” Well, Pete is on his own here. Even the soberest assessments point to enormous risks, short-term chaos and long-term decline for the City.
xxvi. On Nigel Farage’s thwarted bid to win the seat of South Thanet in the 2015 general election: “Taken together, the excessive spending, the push polling, and the very murky ‘sharing’ of UKIP’s private data suggest an extraordinary stitch-up by the Tories.”
Might this stinging injustice explain why Banks and friends felt justified in deploying the exact same dirty tricks in order to win the referendum?
xxvi. “Our brief was to … keep immigration at the top of the agenda.”
xxvii. “Our strategy was to go direct to the people, using techniques that bypassed the mainstream media.” Why would you want to do that? Oh yes: so that you can tell them lies as big as you like, and no one can call you out on them.
xxvii. “We were … gloriously unaccountable.” You say that …
4. Wigmore “comes from a long line of fugitive pirates and buccaneers” and is “descended from Blackbeard himself”.
11. “We are going to be blunt, edgy and controversial, Donald Trump-style.” I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the world’s first blunt, edgy weapon.
11. Of the nascent Leave.UK campaign: “We were calling ourselves The Know. Because the wording on the ballot paper was going to be ‘Do you want to remain in the European Union? Yes, or no?’” 1) Top-notch info you have there, Mr Banks. 2) Jesus Christ. How did these intellectual Lilliputians ever persuade anyone of anything?
12. “Today’s story was Osborne’s plan to abolish permanent non-dom status. I’m not offshore myself, but kept my head down. Doesn’t do to be [seen] sticking up for the super-rich.” But you would dearly have liked to — and Wigmore did.
15. “Cameron wasn’t wrong when he said UKIP has more than its fair share of fruitcakes and loonies.” This is the party Banks has given £1m to and chosen to back.
15. “[Cameron] should really be aiming for associate membership that leaves us with free trade but no political or economic integration with the eurozone — in other words, what people voted for back in 1975.” First up, if it is what they voted for, they weren’t paying a blind bit of attention.
Second up: why are you now banging on about no deal?
16. “Cameron will be calling in favours from the global elites, and we need sympathisers from abroad, too.” Narrator: apart from Donald Trump, they didn’t find any. And we all know what happened when Barack Obama had the temerity to express his opinion on the matter. Fucking hypocrite.
17. UKIP sends out an email to its members that signs off, “Remember the Battle of Britain, let’s get airborne.” Banks is furious because it makes the party of doddering xenophobes look like a bunch of doddering xenophobes.
17. Banks spends £1,800 a month on health insurance. The monthly premium for comprehensive cover for a 49-year-old smoker supporting a family of six is £330 tops. What the hell is wrong with you, man? Might impending mortality begin to explain his cavalier attitude to a) the future of his country and b) his own likely destiny within the UK justice system?
18. “A rightwing thinktank in the States called the Heritage Foundation has promised to find us a couple of red-hot interns”. First mention of one of the members of the shady network of corporate-backed climate-change-denying lobby groups attempting to influence politics and wider opinion in the UK. Start being scared here.
21. Banks wants to hire Dominic Cummings (who ended up heading Vote Leave) as a strategist. We know from the film Brexit: The Uncivil War exactly how far off Cummings will have told him to fuck.
22. Billionaire property tycoon Richard Tice: “I’m in. Whatever. Needs. To. Be. Done.” Why the disturbing zeal? It certainly doesn’t feel as if it comes from a passionate desire to defend the working classes.
22. “The Indy … tried to imply Jim Mellon is a bit dodgy.” What, suggest that your main sponsor, the co-owner of your mysterious Isle of Man-based bank and innumerable shell companies, who made “countless millions” in the carnage of 1990s Russia, is anything less than squeaky-clean? Moi?
24. “A few years ago, I bought several old De Beers mines: two in South Africa and two in Lesotho.” Why would De Beers, the second largest producer of diamonds in the world, offload viable mines? If they couldn’t efficiently extract any more precious stones, how could rank amateur Banks expect to?
25. “[Daily Mail wetwipe] Andrew Pierce has made a career out of telling people what they want to hear.” Indeed. What would be far more socially useful, of course, would be someone who told them what they need to know.
26. Banks admits he’s “worried” about the Electoral Commission, because “they will be overseeing the legalities of the referendum campaign”.
29. “[Donald Trump] represents a new kind of politics, and I think it’s coming here.” What makes you think that, Arron? Gut feeling?
31. Banks claims that a global economic crisis is imminent, “which is why I am stockpiling gold”. (Gold and other precious metals and minerals — like, er, diamonds — only increase in value when the usual investment favourites, like government bonds, shares and currencies, are a bad bet.) Banks is banking on a crash. Surely, though, he would never take active steps towards triggering one purely for his own gain?
31. Email from (eventual Vote Leave chief) Matthew Elliott to Banks: “When we win the referendum, we’ll both have invitations piling up, and people saying they were with us all along.” How’s that prediction working out, Matty?
36. “The big question Remainers will ask is what Britain will ‘look like’ outside the EU. We need an answer.” Banks goes on to give a brief summary of Richard North’s “Flexcit” idea — the one actual plan that any believer in Brexit bothered to concoct, involving a slow, managed departure from the EU — and seems broadly supportive. And now here we are, 31 months later, with all such “Brexit lite” options jettisoned, and no new suggestions beyond unilaterally dropping all our tariffs to zero and crossing our fingers.
38. Banks fervently hopes Corbyn is Labour leader by the time of the referendum: “Everyone knows Corbyn’s a Eurosceptic.”
40. Banks toys with hiring Goddard Gunster, a US firm with expertise in polling for referendums and social media. GG claims a success rate of 90% in its previous campaigns, which include: blocking taxes on sugary drinks and plastic bottle deposits in several US states, defeating Hillary Clinton’s healthcare programme, and thwarting Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large sugary drinks in New York.
Banks later said in an interview: “What [Goddard Gunster] said early on was ‘Facts don’t work’, and that’s it. The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”
NB: Leave.EU’s failure to declare its costs relating to the hiring of Goddard Gunster was one of the reasons the Electoral Commission found it in breach of electoral law and fined it £70,000.
Banks tried to convince the watchdog that Gunster’s advice had come before the official campaign period began or that the advice was given to him in a personal capacity, not to the campaign. But Goddard Gunster is mentioned umpteen times in the book, throughout the campaign, and Gunster himself admitted that some of his staff were embedded in the Leave.EU offices.
40. Another wizard idea from PR geniuses Banks and Wigmore: a Brexit concert. Early suggestions for a name include BRock Around The Clock and BPops. Read the full, rather amusing story here.
41. Farage is pleased about the announcement that the wording on the referendum ballot paper will be leave versus remain instead of yes versus no or in versus out. “He thinks it’s the best question we can get.”
43. First mention of Jack Montgomery. Here, a “young PR guy”. Now, deputy editor of Breitbart and deputy head of communications for Leave.EU. One of the nastier pieces of work.
44. Banks believes someone has hired a private detective to spy on him, and thinks Elliott is the culprit. He writes to Elliot threatening to retaliate by deploy his own security firm: “It’s called PrecisionRiskIntelligence.com.” Catchy! Its staff, apparently, include ex-MI5 and SAS employees. Does this perhaps begin to explain the spectacular failure of Britain’s security services to properly investigate the Brexit swindle?
(“Precision Risk Intelligence was established in 2005 to provide our clients with innovative excellence in risk and crisis management, cybersecurity and investigation services with a global reach,” says its website, which doesn’t offer much beyond assurances of top-level, extremely vaguely defined services, but you can check it out here if you really must.)
48. The sole mention in the book of any of Banks’s five children: one paragraph about his son sustaining an injury in a rugby match, and Banks going home to look after him. What a salt-of-the-earth family guy.
51. Banks gets stuck in traffic and doesn’t like it. We suggest he steers clear of Kent for the foreseeable future.
57. “Farage let fly about the ‘toxic Tory toffs from Tufton Street’.” Another Leave faction Banks and co were apparently at war with. Are they still, I wonder?
79. “Andrew Neil’s asked me to speak at an event for the Addison Club, his very elite private dining society.” Neil has sworn oaths on sacred relics that he is neutral on Brexit.
84. “We’ve hired Cambridge Analytica, an American company that uses ‘big data and advanced psychographics’ to influence people … They devise psychological profiles of the electorate, using thousands of pieces of data to filter the population into 150 personality types. With this information, you can tailor campaign material to particular groups … It may sound a bit creepy, but these days it’s how most political parties work.”
85. “Cummings has been shooting his mouth off about having two referendums.”
88. “Immigration, immigration, immigration … Wiggy reckons [Theresa May would] be the best person to front the Leave campaign.”
92. “Liz [Bilney]’s ‘pop star’ Antonia Suñer launched the Brexit song.” Let the River Run currently has a shade over 5,000 views on YouTube, most of which resulted from a tweet mocking how few views it had on YouTube.
96. Banks and Wigmore meet the Russian ambassador. “We’d been invited by a shady character called Oleg who we’d met in Doncaster at the UKIP conference.” Banks tells us where they met, what they drank, and some of the banter; but other than a vague “Our host wanted the inside track on the Brexit campaign”, he’s shtum on what they actually talked about.
97. “We shook hands and promised to meet again.”
In November 2017, Banks responded to the Electoral Commission’s questions about his contact with Russians thus: “My sole involvement with ‘the Russians’ was a boozy 6 hour lunch with the Ambassador.”
It has since emerged that he met officials from the Russian embassy — also known as spies — as many as 11 times before and shortly after the referendum.
100. Strong insinuation that Tory MPs Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove are homosexual lovers.
102. “[Campaign strategist] Gerry [Gunster] thinks the final vote will be 55% Leave.”
103. Banks blames the EU’s open borders policy for the terror attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015. Rather than, say, the terrorists. Or hate preachers, or inequality, or mental health provision, or disaffected youth … If a man catches a bus on his way to commit a murder, do you ban buses? Twat.
106. Four months earlier, Banks was insistent that having separate campaigns would be to Leave’s advantage. Now he says: “Two rival campaigns is a waste of time, money and effort” and suggests to Vote Leave that the two groups merge.
106. Ah. Everyone pipe down. Banks doesn’t just give to charity — he runs one. Let’s take a look, shall we?
From the Charity Commission:
Love Saves The Day
Registered charity number 1161939
Charitable objects Such charitable purposes for the public benefit as are exclusively charitable according to the laws of England and Wales as the trustees may from time to time determine.
What the charity does General charitable purposes, education/training, prevention or relief of poverty, economic/community development/employment
Who the charity helps Children/young people, elderly/old people, people with disabilities, people of a particular ethnic or racial origin, the general public/mankind
How the charity works Makes grants to individuals, makes grants to organisations, provides services, provides advocacy/advice/information
Have you ever seen a charity with a wider remit? To help “the general public/mankind”? There are no records in existence of how much money Love Saves The Day raised, or where it went. It’s a colossal piss-take.
An investigation by the Charity Commission found that there had been a “serious flaw in the administration of this charity” and concluded that “the trustees’ management and administration of Love Saves The Day Foundation was inadequate”. It was wound down and removed from the registered database of charities in May 2018.
118. Lord Ashcroft conducts a poll. 75% of the UK thinks immigration is out of control. Thanks, Daily Express and Nigel Farage.
120. Banks asks economist Ruth Lea, of Economists for Brexit, for help with an economic question. She says it’s not her area of expertise. So what is economist Ruth Lea’s area of expertise?
121. Banks sends luxury hampers to all his staff for Christmas, and buys all his kids hoverboards. Who said there was no money in insurance?
My dad was director of an insurance broker and my mum was a senior executive with one of the very largest insurance firms. Between them, they cleared about £110,000 a year.
123. “Vote Out, and the repercussions will be as big as the fall of the Berlin wall.” Nah, mate. The fall of the Berlin wall led to forgiveness, strengthening, and unification.
132. “The Brussels-funded CBI”. Part of the CBI’s remit is to carry out economic surveys. The European Commission is naturally interested in some of these, so it pays for them. The work amounts to 0.6% of the CBI’s income.
132. “It’s a shame our competition for the best essay on what shape Brexit should take never really took off. We didn’t get the quality of entries we’d hoped for.”
136. The one thing you would expect Banks to know something about, given his insurance background, is the financial services industry. “Brexit will breathe new life into the UK’s financial services.” Hmm. The Economists for Brexit might agree with you on this … if it was their area of expertise.
137. Banks observes boldly that Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, General Motors and Jaguar will never reduce investment in or leave Brexit Britain in a million years. He’s also quietly confident that Leave.EU are going to win the nomination for the official Leave campaign. Jonathan Cainer can rest easy.
138. Wigmore accuses Vote Leave of “astroturfing” — giving the impression of widespread grassroots support, when they do not have it. As far as we can determine, this is Wigmore’s sole accurate observation in the campaign.
141. “I reckon [BPop will be] the biggest political rally since the war.” If you’re after racing tips, Arron might not be your guy.
142. The mini-Michelin man disses the “meddling” Pope (for saying cooperation is better than competition, in a possible veiled dig at Brexit).
145. “We’ll keep the Airbus wings, which we make here.” Oh, Arron, you are truly spoiling us.
146. Banks has a meeting with Jim Pickard and Kiran Stacey, two journalists from the Financial Times. He gets them so drunk that they start oversharing. Neither has said a bad word about him since.
(@odysseanproject is Dominic Cummings, director of Vote Leave and my neighbour at Exeter College, who has since quit Twitter.)
155. Of entrepreneur John Mills’ involvement with Vote Leave: “Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses.” Sound advice, there, for once, Bankski. Perhaps Theresa May could do with taking a leaf out of your book. Perhaps you could do with taking a leaf out of your book.
156. Four months before the referendum, Banks spends nine days “checking on the mines in South Africa”. He fills up a few pages with what the rest of the gang are up to, but is oddly tight-lipped about his own activities.
158. “The sinking Vote Leave ship”. Shades of “the failing EU” and “the failing New York Times”. Starting to wonder if this man could correctly predict night following day.
158. Steve Baker, the ERG Tory MP, is “pompous … a little greaseball”. For once, we are more than happy to agree with Banks on something.
166. Security staff apprehend a man trying to enter one of Farage’s gigs “armed with a machete”, apparently. I can’t find any mention of this anywhere. Surely they’d have exploited the publicity — unless the grunts were overly heavy-handed with the guy and it wasn’t a machete at all?
189. Now he’s skiing in fucking Meribel. Anti-elitism can be such a drag.
190. Leave.EU spend £3.2m on targeted leaflets, positively brimming with half-truths and outright lies, which are delivered to 8.1 million homes. (The infamous Remain “propaganda” leaflet was sent to all 27 million UK households at a cost of £8m — but it’s restrained in tone and I for one can’t find a falsity in it).
190. “I don’t think we’ll need to print as many copies as we planned,” Banks admits. Why might that be? Not because you’ve obtained targeting data from your shady American friends, perchance?
191. Banks whines that the BBC, in selecting the lineup for a Brexit debate at Wembley, is “trying to make Brexiteers look like a bunch of grumpy old men”.
192. “Wiggy and I like winging it.” No plan? No shit.
195. “Negative campaigning is not engaging the public. We are going to be the keen, bright-eyed optimists.” A proper tea-spluttering moment.
197. The plot to weaponise Turkey. Depressing stuff.
198. “The Duke of Edinburgh, a man with a great sense of humour”. I bet this foreskin stretched over a balloon spends his evenings watching old VHSs of Jim Davidson gigs.
199. Banks whines about Barack Obama coming out for Remain. He’s clearly sore that Leave still haven’t managed to find a single person outside Britain who thinks Brexit is a good idea. (Trump didn’t give his blessing until after the vote.)
206. Matthew Elliott and Bernard Jenkin “were putting it about that I’m a racist homophobe and misuse personal data to boot”, so he serves Elliott with a writ. Rule of thumb: if Arron Banks serves you with a writ, you’re likely on to something.
212. “Let’s play the ball, not the man.” Banks’s entire modus operandi is to play the man. Dirt-digging, smear campaigns, playground insults … If he ever makes contact with the ball, it’s by accident.
216. Now he’s in Miami, clearly a crucial swing state in the Brexit vote.
217. All bar one of the acts booked to appear in Banks’s mega-BPop concert pull out, leaving them with a bill of Phats and Small.
218. Now he’s in the British Virgin Islands. Another must-win constituency for Leave.
219. “We have comprehensively overspent on the campaign anyway.” I repeat: “We have comprehensively overspent on the campaign anyway.”
224. “I’m sorry to report that our last stop was a sleazy gay bar in Soho, the only place still open.” Why is he sorry to report this? Might it be because … he’s a raging homophobe after all?
229. Banks wants to emulate Beppe Grillo’s populist Five Star Movement. Funny I should read that on the day the oinking little fascist and Wigmore are reported to have met not Italy’s far-left populist movement, but its increasingly frightening far-right equivalent, La Liga.
230. Describes Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning efforts for Remain as “useless” and “half-hearted”. “Everyone knows he’s been a lifelong opponent of the undemocratic EU.”
232. Mocks George Osborne’s latest economic forecast (GDP 6% lower by 2030 in the event of Brexit). Leave.EU issues press releases labelling him “Mystic Gideon”. This also marks the point at which the Leave campaign started deriding any negative predictions with playground snarkery like “Scaremongering!”, “Prorect Fear!” and “Have you got some sort of crystal ball?”, all the while merrily scaremongering about Turkey joining the EU and predicting that the UK will be billions better off out of it.
233. More brickbats, this time for the “slightly loopy” director of Get Britain Out, Jayne Adye.
234. Negotiations with Martin Durkin, maker of Brexit: The Movie, which Banks is part-funding. The feculent toad is concerned that it will just be a puff piece for libertarianism, and wants more anti-immigration material, and clips of Farage.
The Wikipedia page for Brexit: The Movie claims its budget was £100,000 and that it was entirely crowdfunded, but when it was announced in January 2016, it already had £50,000 in “seed funding”, and here Banks tells us he’s forked out another £55,000 for the project.
Durkin is a climate change-denying free-market libertarian very much in the mould of, if not in the pay of, the network of fake rightwing thinktanks, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Civitas, et al.
His previous project, Britain’s Trillion-Pound Horror Story, put forward the case that public spending stunts the economy (and thus, indirectly, promoted austerity). The one before that, The Great Global Warming Swindle, was rebuked on multiple counts of imbalance and inaccuracy by the media regulator, Ofcom.
235. Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove are caught paying themselves out of Grassroots Out funds. Banks calls them “second-rate nonentities”.
238. Tice’s turn to get into hot water, as the Inland Revenue demand to see his records.
239. An openly scornful account of Tice and Banks’s interview with the Treasury Select Committee, in which Banks manages to slag off literally everyone on the committee, plus everyone else who has been summoned before it.
241. “London’s status as an English-speaking global hub with a legal system people can trust is what lies at the heart of our success.” True, but it stops being a hub the second you drag it out of a close-knit alliance with its neighbours, blatantly subvert its laws, dismiss its lawyers and judges as “out-of-touch elitists” and set out on the road to regulatory divergence.
243. It feels odd, from our 2019 vantage point, that this marks the first appearance of Jacob Rees-Mogg in the book — and even then, he only has a bit part, on the Treasury Select Committee, rather than any significant role in a referendum campaign.
246. Apparently, constantly being called a racist gets Farage down. In that case, we have some top-drawer advice for him.
246. “A Victoria’s Secret model … turned on her heel, leaving him staring forlornly at her perky derriere”. Fear not, Benny Hill fans! Your hero is alive and knocking back cocktails in Knightsbridge!
248. The Republicans are confident that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for the presidency, but privately, none thinks he has a chance of beating Clinton. Nor do they foresee any prospect of Brexit. This is early May 2016.
250. The BPop concert is back on the cards, with prospective acts including Alesha Dixon and Soul II Soul.
251. A discussion of possible hosts and acts for the event reveals who they regard as anti-EU: Jeremy Kyle, Michael Caine, Sol Campbell, Joey Essex, Roger Daltrey, Mick Jagger. Wigmore, ever the groundbreaking PR man, suggests hiring some Stringfellow’s table dancers.
251. More worries about breaking spending limits, and contortions to try to pacify the Electoral Commission.
253. More bellyaching about the Tories busting spending limits at the 2015 general election: “We’re supposed to be Great Britain, not a banana republic!” This, two pages after confessing to pulling every trick in the book to bypass those limits himself.
253. On seeing rushes from Brexit: The Movie, Banks bleats that it contains no reference to Isis terrorists infiltrating the migrant caravans into Europe. Hm. Maybe that’s because no one has the tiniest scrap of evidence of that happening.
255. Banks and Wigmore balk at a section of the film on “the joys of unregulated toys”, for once rightly divining that a reference to the EU’s efforts to prevent children’s deaths might not be the massive Brexit recruitment tool they were aiming for.
257. David Cameron’s “world war three” Mansion House speech. Nothing much of note, but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to link to this debunking of a Brexiter staple.
258. “The Electoral Commission should wind their necks in.” Gosh, all this checking-that-people-aren’t-breaking-the-law stuff is such a drag, isn’t it?
259. Some exquisite ball control from Banks in this section. The Guardian’s “synthetic rage”; “self-appointed spokesman for political correctness Chuka Umunna”; “Tommy Two Belts Soames”; “invisible Tim Farron”; “Eurosceptic corpse Bill Cash”.
261. Banks gets high and mighty (or as close as he is able) about the £350m “blatant lie” on the side of the Vote Leave bus. An only superficially different version of which he included in the Leave.EU leaflets that were printed and sent to 8.2 million households two months previously.
261. In a braggadocio email to Vote Leave and other Leave groups, Banks admits to having paid £5m into the campaign (sans mentioning its ultimate source, of course). FYI, the commission’s full breakdown of donations to both campaigns is here. Interesting reading.
Banks signs off thus: “We will set this campaign alight in the last four months!” There are six weeks of the campaign left. Probably just an oversight, but … an odd one.
262. Hatchet job on the IMF. “Dodgy single currency groupie” Lagarde, “in the pocket of Brussels”, “made incorrect predictions”, “Project Fear”. Sometimes you get the impression that this man believes his own bullshit.
263. Rees-Mogg reappears, but again, not specifically in connection with Banks or any Leave campaign, just on Robert Peston’s sofa.
264. Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary has changed his mind on the EU, and Banks is incensed. This must have happened, Banks assumes, because O’Leary has been bribed, not because, ooh, I dunno, he has acquired new information and rationally revised his opinion. This is how Banks’s mind works: the only thing people can possibly care about is money, because all he cares about is money.
265. Farage has begun his battlebus tour targeting the areas that Gerry Gunster’s polling technology has identified as being full of “persuadables”.
266. Banks jokes about killing Dominic Cummings. Ha ha, très drôle.
267. Another “humorous” reference to killing Dominic Cummings.
268. Believing himself the victim of an “establishment stitch-up” (Farage pulled from a pre-referendum debate at Wembley), Banks … doxxes everyone involved. Yup, he sends the personal details of five Vote Leave staff and the director of the BBC to tens of thousands of people on his databases. He doesn’t seem to get any blowback from anyone but Farage.
270. “The truth is that a post-Brexit economic boom will bring thousands more jobs.” Banks neglects to explain by what mechanism this will occur — and, indeed, why it is needed, when the employment rate is currently the highest it has been since records began.
271. A new tranche of acts pulls out of BPop Live after finding out that it is promoting Brexit. Meanwhile, Liz Bilney, Leave.EU’s chief exec, threatens to quit because funding the concert in breach of campaign spending limits “is a jail offence”. Banks still thinks he can land AC/DC and the Who.
279. Banks praises Michael Gove’s “People in this country have had enough of experts”. Of course he does. Of course he fucking does.
282. Ever had a rightwinger accuse you of “attempting to politicise” a tragedy in its immediate aftermath? A school shooting, a far-right terrorist attack? Because, basically, they want to silence you until the fuss has died down?
“We will do whatever we need to get people talking about it [immigration]. Today, that meant exploiting a dreadful incident in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were murdered in a gay nightclub by a Muslim with an assault rifle.”
Omar Mateen was an American citizen; EU membership has precisely nothing to do with levels of immigration to the UK from majority-Muslim countries; Britain already has strict controls at its borders; and leaving the EU will harm, rather than improve, UK security, because it will jeopardise the UK’s access to the EU security database and its participation in the European Arrest Warrant. These points were curiously omitted from the race-baiting, fearmongering advert that Leave.EU put out.
286. The Battle of the Thames: Bob Geldof’s cruiser goes bow to bow with a few fishing trawlers, Kate Hoey panics about being seen with Farage, and Farage shits his pants. Banks claims it as another win for Leave.EU (rather than for Leave more broadly).
(One question for the — mostly Scottish — fishermen: if the EU really has destroyed your livelihoods, then how come you’re all still fishing? Couldn’t you have switched to a more lucrative career? And how come you can afford to take a week off to sail down to the Thames for a cheap stunt?)
292. The murder of MP Jo Cox by white nationalist Thomas Mair. “Wiggy, Tice and I agreed we should suspend campaigning immediately.”
294. “Lagarde says jobs, growth, investment and financial markets will all suffer if we leave the EU. It’s just noise.” Arron knows best, because … hang on, why do you know best again, you jumped-up insurance salesman?
295. “Our contacts at Labour Leave think 43 Labour MPs would vote Out if they could.” Wonder what that figure is today.
295. “We’ve done some polling on Cox. The tragedy doesn’t seem to have made any difference to voting intentions on Thursday.”
298. Banks gets all jizzy over an anti-EU letter from an old war bigot who is still bitter about not being thanked by every single Frenchman and Belgian for his actions in the second world war. I thought the UK was leaving the EU, not Europe?
298. A Norwegian anti-EU campaigner is described as “a lovely Scandinavian blonde”.
300. “20 million leaflets, 10 million letters, 9 million views for our best video, 1 million social media followers, and reaching 15 million people every week.” Curiously, he doesn’t mention what their “best video” was. I’m guessing it wasn’t a bland paean to sovereignty. If anyone knows, do share.
302. Banks and co select Italian restaurant Zafferano as the venue for their celebratory Referendum Day lunch. Zafferano was opened by Claudio Pulze, who began his hugely successful career founding high-end eateries in 1975, having moved to the UK to exploit the opportunities afforded by its membership of the EEC.
302. Banks buys Farage a first edition of Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls as a gift for Referendum Day. “It seemed so appropriate, because the bell was very definitely tolling for Nigel.” Farage seems unappreciative; perhaps because he knows the phrase “the bell tolls for you” means “you are dead or about to die”.
303. Banks is excited about the discovery of a valuable blue diamond in one of his South African money-laundering holes. If you fancy delving further into this particular mineshaft, there’s more info here.
You never have to dig far before you get to Russia.
306. Banks takes out a full-page advert in Telegraph thanking Farage for his efforts. It features a quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly.”
The quote could not describe Farage more perfectly: a man who has devoted himself to attacking everyone else’s mistakes while failing to offer any constructive suggestions of his own. He is a shirker, a sniper, a backseat driver, a wrecker. He hasn’t achieved one positive thing in his life.
308. “This decision has started a potential domino effect across Europe, with other countries facing referendums.” Bang on, except for the small point that the UK’s Brexit convulsions have sent support for the EU rocketing to unprecedented levels across Europe.
308. In an email to Christopher Hope at the Telegraph, Banks sets out, with characteristic immodesty, how the “war” was won. It’s worth reading in its entirety, because I have a feeling much of this will ultimately be found unlawful — and if it isn’t, outrage will ensure that the law is changed. Highlights: “The use of big data for the first time in any election the UK left Leave.EU with a massive advantage over both official campaigns … Leave.EU had 100,000 followers on Twitter and 800,000 supporters on Facebook. Weekly posts often broke 20 million … a broad range of content [lies, to you and me] designed to appeal to different types of voter … We were able to update this material in real time to improve its appeal … Goddard Gunster were able to mine this database to conduct in-depth demographic polling and recommend precision target messaging.”
This is all remarkably reminiscent of what Cummings said about how AIQ/Cambridge Analytica helped Vote Leave. Even if you accept that the technology is morally and ethically acceptable, it looks very much as though Vote Leave and Leave.UK shared the same technology and, quite probably, the same illegally harvested data.
310. A rise in racist attacks follows the vote. Banks dismisses people’s concerns out of hand like the sociopathic little shitpiece he is.
312. “It’s unlikely that the Chinese or the Russians are hacking our website.” This is unintentionally revealing. How can he be so confident that the Chinese and the Russians have no interest in attacking his operation? The least sinister interpretation here is that he knows they share the same goals — ie, the undermining of democracy and security in Europe.
313. The phrase “biggest democratic decision in British history”, which the likes of No Facts Chloe and Darren Crimes still parrot on a daily basis, has entered circulation within a week of the vote. Yeah, kind of hard for it not to be the biggest democratic decision in history when it’s the most recent, and given that population increases over time.
314. What Arron Banks wants: “Immigration cap of 50,000, with a £5,000 deposit. The economy would explode. Singapore on steroids.”
Singapore’s spectacular economic growth is almost entirely attributable to the open migration policy it embraced until 2011 (its population almost doubled over that time, largely because of migrants). In 2014, non-resident workers made up 38% of the non-resident Singaporean workforce. In the face of populist unrest, it has recently introduced curbs on immigration — and seen its growth slow commensurately.
(Anyone objecting to the “floods” of migrants coming to the UK could do worse than read this analysis of the situation in Singapore. Yes, even the unskilled workers are valuable.)
315. Tory leadership contest: “The only two I trust with carrying out the people’s wishes are Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox.” Backing some more nailed-on winners there, you walking rectal prolapse.
320. “We’re ready to put the Tory party to the sword so we can stop the establishment murdering Brexit.” That policy is beginning to bear fruit as we speak.
320. Banks is ecstatic that Corbyn looks likely to survive the Labour leadership challenge. “We [Ukip] stand to gobble up 40% of their supporters.”
321. “He’s our greatest ally. Long live Jezza!”
321. What to do next with the infrastructure and power base they have built? Banks fancies setting up “a rightwing Momentum”.
323. Health scare. Banks is told to rest and sort out his lifestyle, and thus misses the trip to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
325. The rest of the gang meet Roger Stone, who has since been indicted for witness tampering, obstructing an investigation, and lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. The same Julian Assange that Nigel Farage slipped into the Ecuadorian embassy for a covert meeting with in March 2017.
325. The rest of the gang meet Donald Trump, who has since … sorry, jumping the gun.
326. Farage is mortally wounded, again, when a blogger approaches him in the street and asks, “How does it feel to be hated, Mr Farage?”
327. Farage’s aide, George Cottrell, is arrested for fraud at Chicago airport.
Cottrell’s CV reads as you would expect: expelled from Malvern College for illegal gambling; became an expert at shadow banking, offshore accounts, transmitting money across borders without detection, and money laundering. Cottrell was found guilty of wire fraud and released from prison in March 2017 after serving eight months. However, the price for this short sentence was “information”. Watch this space (and George, watch your back).
It’s worth noting that when “Posh George” is arrested, Farage and his so-called friends … just leave him there alone and fly home.
329. Another incoherent, hypocritical rant about the “Westminster bubble” and the “Remain-supporting establishment”.
329. “Voters … coalesced around Brexit not only because they believed in it, but also because they wanted to teach the cosy elites a lesson, that the status quo does not serve everyone well.” I’m not going to argue with him here; I’ll just note in passing that Banks and his nefarious ilk are definitely not the solution.
331. Epilogue: Farage has been invited to help Trump on the presidential campaign trail.
333. Republican delegates mob Farage. “They appeared to know more about Brexit than a good many British voters!” What’s this, Arron? You’re suggesting that a large number of British voters … didn’t know what they were voting for?
336. “Nigel got a call from Steve Bannon.”
340. “Nigel’s old friends Steve Bannon and Jason Miller …” You’ve no doubt heard about avowed white supremacist Bannon. Here’s the low-down on Miller.
341. Banks decides to back Diane James to succeed Farage as UKIP leader. Sorry, Diane.
349. Farage is suddenly “battle-hardened”, having been a portrayed as a thin-skinned, whingeing snowflake all the way through.
350. Banks’s response to Trump winning the presidential election: “We’ve won.” That’s right — fresh from his victory over the liberal Goliath in Britain, Arron, by spending no more than a few days across the Pond, has spurred the weak, struggling Donald Trump to the same feat in America.
351. Wigmore has crush on Kellyanne Conway.
352. “He [Trump] and Nigel had forged an unbreakable bond.” How many times has this unbreakable bond led them to meet again since?
358. Of Douglas Carswell: “the slanty-jawed, boggle-eyed bellend”.
358. “I am convinced that the Queen secretly loves him [Farage], and would welcome him as a knight of the realm.”
359. Meetings with Hollywood moguls about a Bad Boys of Brexit film. Let’s hope that goes as well as Brexit: The Movie, South Thanet, Let The River Run, BPop, and Leave.EU’s bid for designation as the official Leave campaign.
361. The Gang of Pricks have a powwow with some “super-rich people” about Calexit, the campaign for Californian independence from the US. Calexit has since been exposed as one of Russia’s more hamfisted attempts at sowing division in the west.
362. Banks dismisses a report on his and Wigmore’s involvement with the Russians as “absolutely mad”. Can’t wait to see how that defence holds up in court.
362. In a beautifully appropriate coda, Wigmore is stripped of his diplomatic status for breaching the Vienna convention. The person who made the complaint to the Foreign Office? One Dominic Grieve.