ISABEL OAKESHOTT

Political journalist and commentator

Courting Controversy

Mar
24

JUST when it seemed the contest between the rival Out campaigns could not get more bitter, it looks like it may be heading for court.

Arron Banks, the multi-millionaire behind Leave.eu, has served a writ on his rival Matthew Elliott, the election strategist behind the other key Brexit campaign, Vote Leave. It follows a dispute over the use of data in the campaign. Banks believes he has been libeled, and wants a public apology. Elliott was served documents by a bailiff on Monday. The matter is now in the hands of lawyers.

The two men are locked in a bitter battle for designation as the official ‘Out’ campaign in the forthcoming EU referendum. They don’t much like each other, but the bigger problem is that they want fundamentally different approaches to the campaign. They also disagree over the role to be played by UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Multiple attempts by third parties to bring them together before the Electoral Commission has to decide between them have failed.

I understand that Banks, who made his fortune in the insurance industry, was none too happy to receive a call from the Financial Services Authority and the Information Commissioner following what he describes as “totally unfounded” claims about his use of data in the Brexit campaign late last year.

After writing to Elliott and the senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, who is also caught up in the row, appealing to them to withdraw their claims, Banks called in the feared Mischon de Reya.Jenkin avoided a writ, having apparently responded to the initial warning. According to Banks’ camp, Elliott, a highly respected figure at Westminster, did not reply to the letter. I understand that he was served a High Court writ on Monday.

Mischon de Reya famously represented Princess Diana in her divorce.

The firm’s motto is “It’s Business. But it’s Personal.” In this case, it’s business and politics – and it’s most definitely personal.

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