Chris Bryant has been keen to make the most of the Ukraine crisis, demanding greater sanctions on Putin’s cronies at every turn. The Labour MP scored an early hit when he used parliamentary privilege to reveal that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was identified by the Home Office in 2019 as having links to the Russian state as well as to ‘corrupt activity and practices.’
But his latest effort to repeat the stunt seems to have backfired somewhat, after the Standards Committee chair turned his guns on a new target: Nigel Farage. Bryant read out a list of names to MPs yesterday, demanding that further sanctions be imposed on them too. He told the Commons:
I am mystified at why some people are still missing from the list, including some of the broadcasters… I simply point out that Nigel Farage received £548,573 from Russia Today in 2018 alone—this is from the Russian state.
The basis for this claim seems to be Farage’s declaration of outside earnings when he was an MEP in the the European Parliament figure. Company accounts for his media vehicle, Thorn In the Side Ltd, show that its assets exceeded £548,000 for the year to May 2018, compared with about £157,000 the previous year. But this figure was his total sum for all media appearances, at a time when Farage had never been more in demand.
It included a very lucrative contract with LBC – for whom he was then hosting a radio programme five days a week – and Fox News, where he appeared as a regular talking head and with whom he had signed up as an analyst shortly after the EU referendum. Any fees from Russia Today would have been a small part of the overall total sum, with Farage appearing infrequently on the broadcaster in the months after the Brexit vote in June 2016.
A quick search by Mr S suggests that Farage’s last appearance on RT was 3 March 2017, the infamous show where a child dressed as a queen pretended to knight him. After that he does not seem to have appeared on the channel at all. Farage himself says that in 2016 and 2017 ‘I had two small appearance fees back then, well under £5,000. Not appeared since.’
Indeed guest appearances on broadcast media tend to command fees of less than £500, meaning that the sum total Farage received from Russia Today was much more likely to be four figures than six. It certainly does not seem to be anywhere near the half-a-million figure being touted by Bryant. Nigel may be box office gold but he wasn’t getting box office fees.
Bryant incidentally has also appeared on Russia Today, though without receiving a fee: clearly he was happy to do it for free. Will the Labour MP now be offering any further evidence about his claims under privilege? Or failing that, an apology?