Brendan O’Neill

The truth about the Brexit Party’s ‘dark money’

The truth about the Brexit Party's 'dark money'
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I have a question. How come when someone like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez funds themselves through small donations it’s a sign of how engaged and democratic they are, but when the Brexit Party does the same thing it’s proof of how sinister and shady that party is?

I think we all know the answer to this question. It’s because the liberal elite is staggeringly hypocritical and now applies a double standard to everyone in politics. If you’re on their side, you’re pure and clean; if you’re on the opposite side, you’re dirty and ‘dark’. 

This is the news that the Brexitphobic sections of the political and chattering classes have this morning managed to turn one of the most positive things about Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party — the fact that it is winning political, moral and financial support from thousands of people — into something dodgy.

Gordon Brown used a speech in Glasgow this morning to call for an Electoral Commission investigation into the Brexit Party’s funding. That the Brexit Party allows people to use a PayPal account to make donations of less than £500 – and does not check the provenance of these small donations – is apparently opening the door to ‘foreign influence’ in British politics.

Some wag at the Mirror signed up as a supporter and small-money donor to the Brexit Party under the name ‘Vladimir Putin’. The Twitterati is excitably talking this up as proof that any foreign plutocrat could pump money into the Brexit Party via its website, whereas to the rest of us it is yet more proof of the chattering classes’ increasingly demented obsession with the spectre of Russian meddling in Western politics. Their neo-McCarthyism — ‘The Russians have taken over!’ — is getting silly now.

In fact, the entire scandal – or non-scandal – over the Brexit Party’s funding is silly. The Brexit Party allows donations under £500 without identity checks; for anything over £500 it applies the Electoral Commission’s rules.

What’s the problem here? Do the anti-Brexit dirt-diggers really believe that powerful, dastardly foreign forces who want to puppeteer British politics would log on to PayPal and give the Brexit Party 499 quid? They can’t be all that powerful or dastardly in that case.

The truth is that people like Gordon Brown and Ben Bradshaw and the army of online Brexit-haters who are lapping up the conspiratorial claims about the Brexit Party’s funding are casting aspersions on a very democratic exercise. More than 100,000 people have given £25 to the Brexit Party. This is a Bernie-style expression of popular support. For Bradshaw to say we need an ‘urgent investigation’ into the Brexit Party’s funding, lest our politics once again be ‘subverted by dark money’, is a disgrace — that ‘dark money’ is coming from builders, plumbers, nurses, teachers and housewives who finally feel that there is a party that will stand up for the thing they voted for in 2016: Brexit.

Let’s get real about this. Bradshaw says the ‘dark money’ problem is a ‘real threat to our democracy’. Brown says democracy could be ‘fatally undermined’ by the Brexit Party’s funding system. Carole Cadwalladr, the Observer writer, is of course all over this story, apparently viewing it as further proof of the threat to democracy posed by shady, hidden, evil networks. This is all stupefying nonsense — it isn’t the Brexit Party and its PayPal account that threatens democracy; it’s the people who are going mad about the Brexit Party and its PayPal account.

These are people who want to overthrow or at least dilute the largest democratic vote in UK history — the vote for Brexit. These are people who want a ‘second referendum’, on the basis that the 17.4m people who voted for Brexit in the first referendum had been brainwashed by a bus and hoodwinked by ‘demagogues’ like Farage. These are people who agitate for the revoking of Article 50 or the cancellation of Brexit entirely. And they want to call the Brexit Party and its tens of thousands of unnamed donors a threat to democracy? Buy a mirror, guys. 

These latest smears against the Brexit Party are disgraceful actually. Think about it: just days before the Euro elections, a former PM and his army of cheerleaders are throwing dirt and allegations at the party that looks set to win those elections.

These people are terrified, plain and simple. They know the Brexit Party is popular and engaged and in touch with people who feel left behind and let down by the establishment parties. And so they are trying to drag the party into the gutter of suspicion and doubt. What they don’t realise is that millions of people will be watching these dirty tricks by the morally knackered political elite and thinking to themselves: ‘Yep, that’s exactly why I’m voting for the Brexit Party.’