Fake News: Pro-EU Kremlin Conspiracy Theorist Mike Gapes Claims Nigel Farage Attended Conferences in Russia

Russia
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-EU Labour politician Mike Gapes has embarrassed advocates of the ‘Kremlin conspiracy’ explanation of Britain’s vote to Leave the EU by making a ‘fake news’ claim that Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage attended conferences in Russia.

Gapes, a staunch EU loyalist, opened his statement in the ‘Russian Interference in UK Politics‘ debate in the House of Commons with a curious admission: “There has always been, on the left of British politics, a group of useful idiots for authoritarian Communism,” he said — citing Clause IV author Sidney Webb and his wife Beatrice for their work promoting the supposed merits of Stalin’s Soviet Union, in particular.

However, he then went on to claim that figures on “the far right of politics” also look to Russia for a “strong leader”, weaving former UKIP chief Nigel Farage into an elaborate anti-Brussels conspiracy theory.

“[Vladimir] Putin has, over recent years, tried to develop a relationship with various groups in Europe to further his own national interest,” the MP claimed.

“He has used, in that process, a man — an ideologist — from the far-right who has connections with the American alt-right and with people including Nick Griffin, Nigel Farage, and Marine Le Pen, who all attended conferences in Russia,” he continued, referring to one Aleksandr Dugin.

The trouble is, Nigel Farage has, in fact, never set foot in Russia in any capacity, personal or professional.

“Yesterday in the House of Commons, @MikeGapes said I attended conferences in Russia. I’ve never been to Russia in my life,” tweeted the veteran MEP.

“Will you please withdraw your comment, Mr Gapes? This is #FakeNews.”

It has been a difficult few weeks for advocates of the ‘Kremlin Conspiracy’ explanation of Britain’s vote to Leave the European Union, which occurred despite the establishment’s efforts to tip the scales by allowing Remain campaigners to spend significantly more than Leave campaigners, and the David Cameron-led government topping up this unbalanced war chest with an additional £9.3m taxpayer-funded drive for Remain votes.

EU loyalists such as Ben Bradshaw MP and the George Soros-funded Open Democracy group have long attempted to undermine the outcome of the referendum by suggesting it was swayed by Russian money and online trolls.

Anti-Russia writer Edward Lucas even went so far as to allude to “whispers floating round the shadowier corners of Whitehall and Westminster” that President Putin may have furnished Arron Banks, the insurance tycoon who acted as the main financial backer of the Leave.EU group, with precious stones in “clapped out diamond mines” in South Africa and Lesotho.

However, an Electoral Commission investigation has established that the allegedly Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency “troll farm” actually spent less than one U.S. dollar on Facebook ads during the EU referendum, and a major Oxford University study found Russian activity on microblogging platform Twitter was also “minimal”.

This latest gaffe from Mike Gapes will do little to dispel criticism of the Russia conspiracy theorists from commentators such as Chatham House fellow Matthew Goodwin, who has said they are living in “cuckoo land”.

Gapes’s blunder came on the same day fellow conspiracy theorist Ben Bradshaw accused a visiting member of the public watching the Russia debate from the Strangers’ Gallery guest area of being a “Russian diplomat” and breaching parliamentary rules by secretly filming proceedings.

The man was escorted from the chamber by Palace security but the paranoid claim took a bizarre turn when it transpired the man was actually an American citizen and hadn’t been taking any pictures, so was immediately let back in to retake his seat.

Proceedings in the House of Commons are filmed for BBC Parliament and Parliament.TV as a matter of course.

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