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Arron Banks: Brexit score-settling (Courtesy of Biteback Publishing)


The Bad Boys of Brexit
is a fake. Arron Banks, self-described as a “boisterous Bristol-based insurance tycoon, diamond mine owner, philanthropist and man of the people”, first came to public view when during the 2014 Conservative party conference he announced that he would be donating £100,000 to UKIP. The then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, replied that he had never heard of him. Banks’s response was to increase his donation to £1 million.

After the 2015 general election — when Nigel Farage failed to win the seat of Thanet South and UKIP did not break through in spite of (some would argue because of) Banks’s active support and involvement in the campaign — Banks decided that he was the man to win the coming EU referendum battle. By his own account he poured £6.5 million of his own money into the campaign.  The figure is difficult to verify, as much of it was given and spent before the period when campaigners had to declare their donations and £3.5 million of it was given in the form of a loan, albeit in all probability an unrecoverable one. His campaign, first called The Know and then Leave.EU, planned to make immigration the core issue of referendum and use Nigel Farage as its figurehead.

Other campaigners for Brexit, however, thought that giving Farage a leading role in the campaign could be fatal to their cause. Vote Leave, run by Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings and backed by the leading Tory Brexiteers as well as UKIP’s sole MP Douglas Carswell, eventually gained designation as the official campaign over the group favoured by Banks. The Bad Boys of Brexit is a score-settling exercise by Banks, attacking in the crudest terms all those, nearly all on the Leave side, with whom he fell out during the campaign.

Banks says that Bad Boys “is my diary of our adventures”. It is no such thing. A diary is, by most definitions, a contemporaneous account of events happening that day or at the least in the few preceding days. Bad Boys was cobbled together after the event from Banks’s emails, Twitter feed and text messages by journalist Isabel Oakeshott. She is the former Sunday Times political editor best known for bringing about the downfall of Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his then wife and her source, Vicky Pryce, and for co-authoring a biography of David Cameron with Michael Ashcroft which made now notorious and unsubstantiated claims about the former Prime Minister’s alleged university high jinks.

Oakeshott writes in the acknowledgements, “Arron’s diary was researched and written in ten weeks, a near-impossible time frame. I was only able to meet the deadline by drafting in several researchers.” Not the way a diary is usually written, I should have thought.

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