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THE latest figures are out from the Electoral Commission. They show the Brexit Party got about £1 million after its launch, from tycoons who are former Tory donors, right-wing millionaires with offshore interests and anti-union bosses.
Although it was only founded this year, it needs a lot of cash if it is really going to field candidates in every constituency in the forthcoming election.
Luckily for them, the money is coming forth, because a lot of rich folk like the Brexit Party.
What the donations show is that the money-men behind the party are often the same guys who funded the Tories and their allied right-wing campaigns.
It is a clear indication that the people at the centre of the party see it as a way of pulling the Tories harder to the right, and see Brexit as way of creating a fresh, neo-Thatcherite slash-and-burn of regulations and social spending.
Techtest, a company which is part of the HR Smith Group, owned by Richard Smith, gave £100,000 to the new party.
Smith’s Hertfordshire firm makes electronic components, aerials and radios for aeroplanes and helicopters.
He is a former Tory donor and even flew David Cameron around in a private plane in 2007.
He is also a big Brexit funder, having given £250,000 to Ukip, and £125,000 to Labour Leave, the supposedly Labour Party-oriented Brexit group in the referendum (the fact Labour Leave relied on Tory donations shows it was a rather sleazy front group).
Smith was also involved with the Midlands Industrial Council, an industrialists’ group that channelled money to the Tories.
What is most significant about Smith is that he is also strongly involved with the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
In 2012 the Taxpayers’ Alliance said Smith helped fund their move to their headquarters in Tufton Street, the Whitehall address they share with other right-wing think tanks.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance are of course an “astroturf” organisation pushing for tax cuts for the rich, slashing public spending and deregulation. So the Brexit Party looks like a continuation of this programme.
Christopher Harborne is also in the aeroplane business — in his case, selling aviation fuel and jet planes through various companies.
He has given the Tories over £400,000. He gave the Brexit Party £200,000 this year.
Harborne has many offshore interests: last year he filed documents at Companies House which listed the “country where he is usually resident” as Thailand.
Harborne’s wife Katharine was a Tory councillor — and is now the Brexit Party candidate for Henley.
The new party also got £243,000 from Jeremy Hosking, a millionaire asset manager who is also a long-term Tory funder.
He gave the Tories £100,000 for the 2015 election, and also gave £1.7m to Vote Leave for the 2016 referendum.
So this big investor apparently sees the Tories, Brexit and the Brexit Party as a continuum.
He also collects old steam engines, so clearly has a bit of nostalgia for the old days and old ways.
On a smaller scale, the Brexit Party also got £25,000 from a company called EIRP Ltd.
It is owned by UPVC double glazing millionaire Gary Dutton. He is very anti-union, saying in 2008 that “the fact is that the unions and then the Far East have, in turn, decimated the UK manufacturing sector.”
Perhaps the most characteristic Brexit Party donation comes from George Farmer, who gave £100,000. Twenty-nine-year-old Farmer comes from the Tory Establishment.
He is the son of Lord Farmer, a multimillionaire hedge fund trader and Tory peer. Lord Farmer was Tory Party treasurer and has given the party over £8m.
George Farmer was a Bullingdon Club member at Oxford, like Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
However, George Farmer is trying to revive right-wing politics by bringing it closer to US “alt-right” circles.
Farmer is chairman of Turning Point UK, a British arm of the US Trump-backing student organisation Turning Point USA.
He is the fiance of Candace Owens, who was Turning Point USA’s best-known spokesperson.
The Conservative Party was very attracted to Turning Point UK as a possible “youth wing,” but it was also nervous of the group’s more Trump-esque or alt-right stand.
Turning Point UK had a disastrous London launch when Owens appeared to make an apology for Hitler, saying: “He was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run, well, OK, fine.
“The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalise.”
Owens, who is African-American, has been a particular critic of the Black Lives Matter campaign in the US.
She has also used racist “great replacement”-style anti-migrant arguments, for example writing: “According to the birth rate, Europe will fall and become a Muslim majority continent by 2050.”
So Farmer comes from a Tory background, but he wants to rejuvenate the right, using new, US-style approaches.
Turning Point UK looks like an attempt to import combative, sometimes racist right-wing activism from the US to create a British Trumpism.
So Farmer’s support for the Brexit Party is a strong indication that he sees that as part of the same operation.
There is a good argument that the EU is a multinational-friendly capitalist institution, one that is happy to see citizens squeezed in favour of bankers. It’s why in southern Europe left-wing parties are often very critical of the EU.
However, there is more than one exit-door from the EU. They do not all lead to the same place.
The Brexit Party funders clearly believe that they will be able to ensure that if Britain does leave the EU, it will arrive in an even more business-led destination, with even fewer workers’ rights, regulation and social spending.
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