Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.
The man behind the man behind UKIP, i.e., the guy who’s been bankrolling Nigel Farage’s party reasonably unnoticed, is “insurance millionaire” Arron Banks.
Just yesterday, the softly spoken party donor (particularly in contrast to Farage) quietly pledged £10 million to fund a new political party if Theresa May won the Tory leadership.
Now that’s all done – following Andrea Leadsom’s decision to leave the race, meaning May will likely be in Number 10 by Wednesday – we must quickly turn our attention back to the man who isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
Speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC yesterday morning, Banks, who gave millions to the unofficial Leave.EU campaign said: “If Theresa May wins, UKIP will be back with a vengeance.
“We potentially could be talking about a new party and I think there are very sound reasons for that.
“The Leave.EU campaign has nearly one million online followers. On social media it reached out to 15 million people a week.”
Banks said it would have a new name and would “very much so” be an online effort, with more money and fresh faces.
He claimed Leave.EU’s email database, a goldmine to anyone doing digital campaigning, already has 40,000 Conservative members on it, of a membership only tipping 100,000.
But, as Banks admitted to Marr, “the Conservative Party is a dying membership”, so hardly the target market for a new, jazzy digital party.
There are, of course, 500,000 Labour members out there too.
Not to mention all the normal people who don’t usually join political parties, but presumably will now that they’re doing good memes.
With UKIP, or with a swanky rebranded party, Banks said he reckons they could win 30 to 40 seats next time around, likely in places in the North East that voted heavily for Leave.
“I don’t think it’s just immigration. It’s this whole disconnect between the ‘metropolitan elite’ that sneer at working people and I think there’s a great opportunity to take some real policies back into these Labour heartlands.”
He also touted the potential for more direct democracy initiatives, like the referendum.
If Leadsom had stayed in the race and won, UKIP voters could probably have been convinced to switch their support back to the mainstream party. Although, had that happened, some Conservative MPs had already pledged they would quit.
Now Leadsom is out, you could be hearing more from NuKIP (?) in your newsfeed very soon. Watch this space.
Or leave. Leave now.