A FORMER Coventry MP is mounting an audacious bid for his Socialist to be selected to run the official ‘vote to leave Europe campaign’ ahead of June’s referendum – amid the ‘Panama Papers scandal’.
Dave Nellist’s Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is one of three European Union exit organisations vying for recognition from the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign.
He is calling on the commission not to award official campaign status to any group that has received funding from individuals or companies named in the ‘Panama Papers’ – in which a string of high profile-politicians have been linked with off-shore businesses and other matters.
Last week TUSC submitted what the BBC called a ‘surprise bid’ to be the designated Leave campaign – against the Tory and UKIP dominated exit campaigns, Vote Leave and Grassroots Out.
Mr Nellist, a former backbench colleague of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is now the chair of TUSC, said: “Designation as the official Leave campaign will give political authority to the group chosen, access to the media including TV broadcasts, and, not least, substantial public funding – £13 million for starters for a freepost mailing.
“It would be an outrage if taxpayers’ money went to organisations whose funders do everything to avoid paying tax!
“Ex-Tory donor and now UKIP member Aaron Banks, for example, one of the key funders of Grassroots Out, has been named in The Guardian as ‘appear[ing] as the shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company called PRI Holdings Limited’, with shares from PRI also reported as having been transferred to Elizabeth Bilney, the chief executive of Leave.EU. Vote Leave is also not short of wealthy business backers.
“At the very least the Electoral Commission should do a proper audit of the business backers of Grassroots Out and Vote Leave before they make their designation decision, even if that means disrupting the EU referendum timetable.
“Legally the Electoral Commission has to be satisfied that the campaign they choose ‘adequately represents’ those supporting a particular outcome in the referendum. Organisations funded by tainted money won’t meet that test.
“Alternatively, they can designate TUSC as the lead campaign for Leave.
“The Panama papers controversy, showing how the elite bend the rules for themselves, is another example of why either of the reactionary Leave campaigns will be too easily dealt with by the equally big business-dominated ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ Remain campaign, because they all operate within the same economic, political – and tax-avoiding – framework.
“TUSC, on the other hand, has a completely different standpoint and would provide an anti-austerity, anti-racist and socialist alternative that would offer a far greater challenge to the Remain campaign than Vote Leave or Grassroots Out ever could”.