Now out of Ukip the party he bankrolled Arron Banks is creating a political movement of his own. We gratified the bad boy of Brexit just before article 50 was triggered and observed his ambitions go far beyond leaving Europe
It is five days before article 50 is triggered, and Im sitting in the sunshine outside a saloon in Islington with the person who is bankrolled Brexit. If victory lies with anyone this weekend, it maybe lies with Arron Banks.
Though Nigel Farage is the face of Brexit, Arron Banks is the man who attained it possible. He bought Brexit. Or at least pay money it. Until 2014 he was an unknown Bristol businessman. Now hes the biggest political donor in British political history. The most powerful. He set more money into funding the Leave campaign than anyone else more than 7m. He donated his office space, his computer equipment, his senior staff. Hes the co-founder of Leave.EU, the so-called provisional wing of the Leave campaign, spearheaded by his close confidantes Nigel Farage, and hes now contemplating his next move: taking an axe to the rest of the parliamentary system.
He merely began pouring his money into politics in earnest in 2014 with a splashy donation to Ukip but hes now out of the party and in the throes of creating a new motion. In his sights: the seats of more than 100 Remain MPs. Although, hes not partisan hes aiming to dislodge all bad MPs.( Bad MPs being, as far as I can make out, anyone from Oxford PPE-ists to people hes had a spat with on Twitter .) He tells me hes working with Steve Hilton, David Camerons former head of strategy, to come up with a points system that grades them on their awfulness, and from that hell devise a target listing of the most hated people.
It lies in the fact that defining phenomenon of our age: a grassroots movement money and built by a multimillionaire. And, potentially, the next political earthquake. Taking us out of Europe was merely step one of the big interruption, it turns out. Next up: the party political system, and the extermination of the traditional boundaries between left and right.
And if that sounds like a stretch, well, weve been here before. Banks has the money, the drive and, as weve latterly come to realise, the connections. He and his business partner, Andy Wigmore, together with Nigel Farage and Raheem Kassam, the editor of Breitbart London, are the self-styled bad sons of Brexit. Theyre key partners in a transatlantic alliance, the depth and extent of which is only now, slowly, coming into the illuminate. An alliance that has been cultivated for years by Steve Bannon, Donald Trumps chief strategist.
The sun is shining. Douglas Carswell, Ukips only MP and Bankss mortal adversary, had just resigned from the party. Banks intends to stand against him and beat him; he plays to win in the next general election. He has just been on the phone with Farage, who he says is cockahoop. Everything is going precisely to plan.
The needle on public opinion has changed so far now. And trying to switching it back is as hard as it was for us to change it the other route. Theres people protesting, all the rest of it. But the fact is, theyre not going to transformation public opinion. It has changed. It is what it is. Its permanent.
Its hard to argue with this theory of permanent revolution. And part of it a big component, he enjoys telling me was playing and beating the media at its own game. As industrialists, we sat down with a clean sheet of paper and said, How do we beat these people? And then we figured out how the mainstream media works how they operate and we turned it back on them.
We worked out how to take their outrage, how to take their ache in your lawsuit and feed it back into the system. You know we spent 12 -1 4m on the campaign? And we calculated what our column inches and Tv coverage was worth. It was over 150 m.
All of which induces me wonder: what exactly is the game hes playing here , now? A month ago I interviewed Andy Wigmore, Leave.EUs director of communications, and as a result of what he revealed to me, the Electoral Commission is now investigating whether Leave.EU should have declared the donation of services by a company largely owned by Robert Mercer, the billionaire who bankrolled Trump, and who works closely with Steve Bannon.
Bankss autobiography, The Bad Boys of Brexit , was written for him in the Jeremy Clarkson style, and the whole esthetic is Top Gear . A plenty of people portray Farage, Banks and Wigmore as the three stooges: Clarkson, James May and the Hamster( Richard Hammond ), the jolly chumps who more or less accidentally took the country out of Europe. But thats not my view. Theyre smart, and in triangulation with Bannon there has been a huge amount of strategy and crucially an understanding of technology behind everything theyve done. This just is like the next stage. Ukip was the host body, and now theyre pupating.