The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), one of three EU exit organisations vying for recognition from the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign, today called on the Commission not to award official status to any group that has received funding from individuals or companies named in the ‘Panama Papers’.
Last week TUSC submitted what the BBC called a ‘surprise bid’ to be the designated Leave campaign in June’s EU referendum (click here for BBC article) against the Tory and UKIP dominated exit campaigns, Vote Leave and Grassroots Out.
Dave 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 today’s 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 certainly wouldn’t meet that test.
“Alternatively, they can designate TUSC as the lead campaign for Leave.
“The Panama papers controversy, showing how the elite have a common interest in bending 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 to the EU that would offer a far greater challenge to the Remain campaign than Vote Leave or Grassroots Out ever could”.
Last Friday TUSC issued a challenge to Vote Leave and Grassroots Out for a public debate: ‘Who should be the voice of Leave? Trade unionists and socialists – or bankers, Tories and ex-Tories?’ Only now it should be, ‘Trade unionists and socialists – or bankers, Tories and tax avoiders’.