The left-wing Guardian newspaper has issued a correction after an article about the pro-Brexit group co-founded by Arron Banks was revealed to be based on false claims.
Mr. Banks hit back by accusing the Electoral Commission of “colluding with the Guardian to pump out more fake news”, as well as taking aim at the anti-Brexit MP Damian Collins MP, who has pushed claims Russia was behind the vote to leave the bloc.
The paper had published an article on the 9th of May asserting that a company controlled by Mr. Banks had provided £22 million worth of services to the pro-Brexit campaign group Leave.EU he founded.
However, the sum was more likely to be around just £3 million, as the company had done £12 million of work for Leave.EU, including £9 million that had already been reported.
Furthermore, as Mr. Banks pointed out, the services had been provided prior to the referendum spending cap taking effect in April 2016, and were therefore entirely legal.
The false and inflated spending claims were published days before the Electoral Commission claimed Leave.EU overspent by ten per cent during the referendum, igniting further public scrutiny of the organisation.
In response to “the new admission” in the Guardian story, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society Darren Hughes called for the government to update electoral finance laws.
On the day that the @guardian had to print another correction for fake news @ElectoralCommUK are colluding with the Guardian to pump out more fake news @DamianCollins @carolecadwalla https://t.co/5wLbQDbCmg
— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) May 15, 2018
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw was quoted as saying there were “serious questions that need answering” in the story and even demanded the National Crime Agency investigate.
This Tuesday, however, The Guardian conceded the “new admissions” were fake news. “We referred to £12m in services provided to Leave.EU and listed in the accounts of a company controlled by Arron Banks,” they wrote.
Adding: “We said the services were in addition to £9m already reported to have been provided by Banks to the Brexit campaign. After publication, lawyers for Banks advised that the £12m included the £9m previously reported.”
Mr. Banks and Leave.EU are currently contesting a fine from the Electoral Commission, which says they overspent by £77,380 ahead of the 2016 European Union referendum.
The fine is a “politically motivated attack”, according to Mr. Banks, who slammed the Commission as a “Blairite Swamp Creation”.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 14, 2016