Millionaire Brexit backer Arron Banks ignored a ban on campaigning in the wake of Jo Cox’s murder, telling the Leave.EU team to “keep pumping” an ad on Facebook, an investigation has claimed.
According to emails seen by Channel 4 News, Banks – who co-founded the pro-Brexit Leave.EU campaign – urged the social media team to take advantage of the lull in campaigning the day after the Labour MP’s killing.
In an email to Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney and other staff on June 17, 2016, Banks allegedly said they should “boost” an existing sponsored social media advert.
Banks: “Keep pumping the McKenna video... and up the Spend A”.
Bilney: “Yes that’s starting to get traction now and with paid advertising and no active campaigning could get a lot of take up today.”
Banks: “Exactly - press it harder.”
He added later: “Boost it more.. The ban is on new stuff and activity not the sponsored page..”
Meanwhile, the probe claims to have revealed how a press officer paid by Leave.EU drafted a press release in the name of the campaign group Labour Leave attacking the media for politicising Cox’s murder.
The release – dated June 17 – condemned reporters for making the death of the Batley and Spen MP into “political mileage for Remain”.
The draft reportedly read: ”... blackmailing Brexiteers to tone down their campaign is a new low”.
According to the investigation, one Leave.EU figure suggested altering the wording: “I think it also needs more about being a time for showing respect,” he writes… “and drawing unsubstantiated inferences about motive or causes at such a time is disrespectful to Jo Cox’s memory”.
But Leave.EU’s Andy Wigmore then replied: “NO – don’t need to say this – her husband has already made it political… the tone is about right.”
Labour Leave condemned the release, claiming it had been issued falsely in its name.
Labour MP Alison McGovern told Channel 4 News that the thought of such a discussion going on “makes me feel sick”, calling the day Cox was killed “one of the worst days of my life”.
“It’s horrific,” she said.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Jo Stevens told reporters: “I haven’t got any words to describe how I feel about that. That Brendan would make political capital about his wife being murdered on the street, immediately after her death.
“Why would anybody suggest that?”
The investigation – which is set to air on Channel 4 at 7pm on Friday – is also reportedly due to reveal how Leave.EU secretly bankrolled Labour’s Eurosceptic movement Labour Leave, which is now under investigation by the Electoral Commission.
It will go on to claim that Leave.EU hired a private jet to fly Nigel Farage to a UKIP event in Gateshead, but failed to declare the £12,400 cost.
Banks has yet to respond to Channel 4′s allegations, telling reporters he was skiing in Italy.
He told the programme: “The length and sheer number of details in the letter means that it will take seven days to respond to your request.” He later revised the figure to five days.