Both anti-far right activists and senior Ukip officials attempted to block controversial Brexit donor Arron Banks’ burgeoning political ambitions by trying to register “Patriotic Alliance” with the Electoral Commission, the Ferret can reveal.
Banks, who claims to have put £7.5m into the Brexit campaign, has frequently said that he intends to form a new party with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage. The new pro-Brexit outfit has been expected to be named the Patriotic Alliance.
But anti-far right campaigners and Banks’ former Ukip colleagues both tried to register Patriotic Alliance with the Electoral Commission to prevent the businessman using the term, according to internal Electoral Commission emails released in response to a Freedom of Information request by WhatDoTheyKnow and given to the Ferret.
In March, while Banks was being described as “our founder” on the Patriotic Alliance’s Facebook page, anti-far right activists had already applied to the Electoral Comission to register the name.
In April, Louise Edwards, head of regulation at the Electoral Commission, wrote to staff about the Patriotic Alliance application, saying that “this is the name of the organisation that Arron Banks had been interested in setting up…. (but) it doesn’t appear that this party is connected to Arron Banks and that they are likely registering to prevent him doing so at a later date.”
“I have found what appear to be social media profiles for some of the officers which appear to be anti-far right.” Edwards added.
The previous month, Banks announced that he had quit Ukip – a party he had donated £1.3m since 2014 – and was planning to “concentrate on our new movement”. The businessman later said that he planned to launch the Patriotic Alliance ahead of the general election, with a view to fielding candidates against pro-Remain MPs. Banks said that “the alliance aims to not only burst the Westminster bubble, but drain the swamp too”. This new party was never formed.
The anti-far right activists’ application was eventually rejected by the Electoral Commission due to lack of documentation. The Patriotic Alliance has still not been registered as the name, or description, of any UK political party or group.
In recent days, Nigel Farage has repeated suggestions that he will form a new party with Banks if anti-Muslim activist Anne Marie Waters becomes Ukip’s next leader at the 2017 party conference.
Newspaper reports have suggested that Farage has booked a room in Strasbourg for next Monday when he is expected to announce the formal launch of his new breakaway party.
Currently Patriotic Alliance has a website, declaring itself “a grassroots movement built on the success of the EU referendum… the Alliance aims to capitalise on the huge promise delivered by Brexit.” The owners of the domain name are withheld but Banks has encouraged his Twitter followers to sign up.
Coincidentally, the Patriotic Alliance is also the name of a South African political party. Banks is not known to have any links to the South African party but he did spent part of his childhood in South Africa and has said that he has a controlling interest in a Kimberley diamond mine, and he recently he reported a “significant find” of alluvial diamonds in eastern Lesotho.
Banks’ business and political interests have attracted increasing attention in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Banks claims to be worth around £100m, owning amongst other things insurance company Go Skippy and half of populist pro-Brexit news site Westmonster. Banks has spoken publicly of his admiration for Vladimir Putin and Trump; Banks’ WhatsApp picture shows him alongside the US president Donald Trump standing, giving thumbs-up signs.
Anti-far right activists are not the only ones who have tried to register Patriotic Alliance ahead of Banks. Before the general election, Ukip applied to the Electoral Commission to register “Patriotic Alliance” as a description for “for all of Great Britain”.
Ukip’s application to register the description “Patriotic Alliance” was authorised by the registered officers of that party at the time of submission: then Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, national nominating officer Christopher Adams, and party treasurer John Bickley. The application was rejected on the grounds that it “does not meet the requirements of a description”. “A description must identify the applicant party. That means a voter must be able to identify the party from the description,” the Electoral Commission said.
There is little love lost between Nuttall and Arron Banks. In June’s general election, Ukip’s vote collapsed from over 12 per cent in 2015 to just 2 per cent. Ahead of that vote, Banks said Nuttall – who had a turbulent campaign – had “crashed the car, at the first bend of the race, into the crowd, killing the driver and spectators”.
Commenting on the failed attempt to register Patriotic Alliance when the story was broken in August, a Ukip spokesman said: “The name was registered as an insurance policy. Is it likely to change its name to that? No. The chances are slim to nil.”
Ukip had previously been damaged in the 2014 European Parliament elections when a party called “Independence from Europe” – largely comprising disaffected former Ukip members – attracted around a quarter of a million votes. Confusion among potential Ukip voters was thought to have cost the party seats in the European Parliament.
A source close to Ukip says Banks may start a new party – under the Patriotic Alliance umbrella or another name – but it is likely to look very similar to Ukip, in tone and personnel.
“Banks is trying to destabilise Ukip so he can keep himself relevant and Nigel relevant,” the source says. “If he does (form a new party) it will basically be the same Ukip people but with those he doesn’t like purged.”
Arron Banks could not be reached for comment on this story.
A spokesperson for Hope Not Hate, an organisation that campaigns against racism, said: “With Arron Banks and Nigel Farage looking increasingly likely to launch a new rival movement to UKIP, the party’s drift ever further rightwards and the potential for anti-Muslim extremist Anne Marie Waters to become its leader looks set to further consign it to irrelevancy.
“We’ll be monitoring and campaigning against any new radical right party or movement, too, which are proven time and again to bring division and misery in their wake.”