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“We didn’t really appreciate the machinations” – Andy Wigmore: The Brexit Interview
Image Credit: Kellyanne Conway courtesy of Andy Wigmore
This article was accessible to subscribers only until March 12. It has been made available earlier than anticipated due to increased public interest developments around both Russian activity in the UK and the practices of Cambridge Analytica.
After a year following the huge scandals of dark money, big data, and hybrid warfare which are still rocking Western politics, I finally settled down to watch Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, give evidence before the UK’s Fake News Inquiry in Parliament.
The session, chaired by MP Damian Collins, opened up a whole new range of questions in respect of both the firm and Nix himself, but none felt so immediately pressing to resolve as the clear issues surrounding the company’s stormy – and potentially illegal – relationship with Leave.EU.
Around twelve hours after publishing analysis of the often terse Nix session, I turned to Twitter and reached out to one of the so-called Bad Boys at the very top of the Brexit tree, Leave.EU’s Andy Wigmore.
We talked for an hour and nothing was off limits…
“…we did a lot of preparatory work, of course we did, and they were involved, that’s a fact. It’s not fantasy, we’ve audited it all, and in our designation document they had to supply a presentation which the Electoral Commission had to review, as to how we would operate a particular part of our campaign. So they had done a lot of preparatory work in getting us to that stage.”
Wigmore made himself available at the end of the working day and answered my call straight away. He was polite, cheerful, and genuinely engaging from the outset, even as I made my apologies and promised not to keep him too long.
Getting straight to the point, I wanted to immediately clear up the reasons Wigmore and Arron Banks saw as being behind Nix’s desperate attempts to back-pedal from claims Cambridge Analytica had won the vote for Trump in the US and for Leave.EU during Brexit. Being on the outside, I just couldn’t work out whether Nix was denying a relationship with Leave.EU because he was distancing himself and the company from inquiry and investigation fall out, or if the truth was Cambridge Analytica simply isn’t what it claims to be.
“Do you know what James, I am as confused as anyone on this one,” Wigmore laughed briefly. “Because actually it’s very black and white. It’s a really easy conversation to have. It’s really easy to audit and it’s really easy to present which, by the way, we’re going to be doing. We’ve been asked to submit our evidence which we’ll do. It’s in the public domain already. There’s nothing that’s alarming or nothing new there. It’s just that people haven’t bloody well bothered to read it. That’s what’s a bit annoying.”
“It’s all on public record. It’s actually all in our designation document. The conversations, the meetings, the proposals they put forward, everything. The point being if we’d won designation we would have used them, but we didn’t win designation so we couldn’t. But prior to that we did a lot of preparatory work, of course we did, and they were involved, that’s a fact. It’s not fantasy, we’ve audited it all, and in our designation document they had to supply a presentation which the Electoral Commission had to review, as to how we would operate a particular part of our campaign. So they had done a lot of preparatory work in getting us to that stage. But we didn’t pay them anything for that, it was a pitch. And if we didn’t win designation they wouldn’t get employed. There’s contracts for that and that’s the truth which we’ll present to the committee. We don’t have anything to hide,” he told me.
“…we are under Electoral Commission investigation for God knows how many things. One of those is where did we get the money from, who did we pay who didn’t we pay, at what point we pay, at what point did we stop, all of that. So we had Deloitte audit us and there’s a reason for that: we ran it like a business right from the word go. Right from August 2015 when we started. We audited absolutely everything and no one knew what the rules of engagement were at that stage. No one even thought there was going to be a referendum but we thought there would be one.”
I recapped my understanding with Wigmore, to make sure I was right in thinking they had a relationship up until the campaign period but not during, that no money changed hands, and that they couldn’t have continued the relationship after failing to get designation because it would have been illegal and breached spending limits.
“That’s correct, you’re absolutely spot on. It’s not rocket science.” Wigmore told me. “It’s all audited. Look, just so’s you know we are under Electoral Commission investigation for God knows how many things. One of those is where did we get the money from, who did we pay who didn’t we pay, at what point we pay, at what point did we stop, all of that. So we had Deloitte audit us and there’s a reason for that: we ran it like a business right from the word go. Right from August 2015 when we started. We audited absolutely everything and no one knew what the rules of engagement were at that stage. No one even thought there was going to be a referendum but we thought there would be one. With that in mind we did it properly – knowing that if there was going to be a referendum there would be certain rules and that included where you got donations from, how you funded the whole thing. All of that. So we ran it like a business.”
“And then there’s this wonderful stuff which you’ll probably love and appreciate,” he continued. “The idea that we used strange psychographics and all sorts of crazy things to convince people on Facebook and Twitter. Twitter wasn’t a weapon that was very useful, Trump weaponized Twitter and made it what it was,” he added.
Wigmore then explained the core elements of the Leave.EU campaign method, starting with the background.
“We based our premise, and you might find this interesting,” he started, pausing briefly. “Insurance companies are marketeers. Way back in 2006 I was involved in something called the Compensation Act, which was there to try and control claims management companies, and the way they used to try and market to their audiences was very sophisticated and very clever. And they used to use Google and Facebook’s instruments which were there from the word go, where you find a custom audience and a look-a-like audience. Google did this and it’s pay per click so, if you did an advert and someone clicked through you’d pay anything from ten pence to ten pounds depending on the audience. Those are same marketing techniques we used from the word go. The same marketing technique we used for selling insurance, and the same marketing technique, weirdly, the claims management companies had perfected. And they were very good at it. And consumer marketing still use it. It’s not new.”
“…the referendum wasn’t about facts, it was about emotion and, similarly, Trump was about emotion…It was all about emotion and it didn’t matter what the mainstream media did in Brexit or what they did in Trump, it was just white noise to the voters.”
I told Wigmore I was taking a rough stab in the dark that their new venture, Big Data Dolphins, was about taking this model to the United States, centred around the insurance side of the business and based in Mississippi.
“You’re not wrong,” Wigmore told me. “What we discovered, when you take a look at – if you want to call it artificial intelligence – what we were able to refine by learning, going through the referendum, was how to be very, very clever and cost effective in marketing how to get someone to buy your product. So, from a consumer point of view, it’s about not bombarding everyone but getting the right person to buy your product. It’s fundamentally the same as the pay-per-click marketing techniques which have been around forever. All artificial intelligence does is help refine the audience. Coca-Cola use it. Everybody uses it. All the big brands.”
I explained my belief that, at base, what Cambridge Analytica does is exactly the same as old-school marketing. I also ventured that the infamous psychographic element, the playing to emotions, wasn’t even new in of itself and had been around in traditional marketing since at least the 1940s.
“Correct, correct, correct,” Wigmore said. “What they told us was it doesn’t matter how much technology you had because the referendum wasn’t about facts, it was about emotion and, similarly, Trump was about emotion. The American people just wanted somebody, anybody, and Trump was the conduit. It was all about emotion and it didn’t matter what the mainstream media did in Brexit or what they did in Trump, it was just white noise to the voters. There was an emotional feel to it.”
“in hindsight looking back, when you’re in the heat of battle if you want to call it that and we made…the great thing is, all the mistakes we made – and believe me there were many, techniques that we tried, we kind of put them in our book…”
I took the opportunity to raise the growing body of data-driven evidence which shows Russian state media channels RT and Sputnik outperformed mainstream media substantially through micro-targeting on social media, as opposed to paid advertising. I explained that, hand-in-hand with this, the Kremlin-funded state channels – which are not the same as a traditional state broadcaster such as the BBC – had eclipsed the reach of both Vote Leave and Leave.EU online campaigning and, in fact, been the most effective Leave campaigner during the referendum.
“It’s funny James, because in hindsight looking back, when you’re in the heat of battle if you want to call it that and we made,” he paused again. “The great thing is, all the mistakes we made – and believe me there were many, techniques that we tried, we kind of put them in our book…But, you know, if you put your sensible hat on and do a wash up and analysis of what you did and how you did it it’s interesting then to look at why we decided to send Nigel to twelve places in different parts of the country because the uptake on our social media was high. So instead of sending him everywhere we sent him where people wanted to hear our message. So that’s where we put Nigel.”
Wigmore confirmed this is the same thing the Trump campaign did in Blue states. So, I asked him directly if Cambridge Analytica had, in fact, added any value to the Trump campaign.
“No. I don’t think they did. No,” he replied. “They did stuff for Ted Cruz, they were the primary people behind that, but a lot of different people claimed credit for Cruz when he dropped out. Who could tell? I do know that guy Brad something [Parscale] was the key man behind it, and his background was consumer marketing. And don’t forget hotels, that’s Trump’s space. Any brand does it and he was just very good at it.”
“Social media and politics…it’s very much of its moment. Facebook for politics, Brexit was its moment. Twitter in politics was of its moment. Those two weaponized platforms were of their time. You’re never going to be able to repeat that with Twitter or Facebook ever again…You’re going to end up talking about Fake News and how you control it. But you’ll end up like the United States with these little Facebooks as I call them, all talking about their own interests. In their own little clusters. Little families. You’re starting to see it now. That’s what it’s going to evolve to.”
I raised the issue of SCL – Cambridge Analytica’s larger group company – being a defence contractor specialising in information warfare, citing the recent Qatar example, and highlighted the difference between this and what Wigmore said they were doing at Leave.EU.
“Social media and politics…” he drew in a breath. “Just remember Barack Obama started it and did very well, but that learning point from there, well, people tried different things. But it’s very much of its moment. Facebook for politics, Brexit was its moment. Twitter in politics was of its moment. Those two weaponized platforms were of their time. You’re never going to be able to repeat that with Twitter or Facebook ever again. The reason people like Trump is because they think he’s talking directly to them, but that’s the personality talking. The brand. You’ll never be able to repeat that. You see new things evolving all the time, like Pinterest. You’re going to end up talking about Fake News and how you control it. But you’ll end up like the United States with these little Facebooks as I call them, all talking about their own interests. In their own little clusters. Little families. You’re starting to see it now. That’s what it’s going to evolve to.”
As he raised Fake News and segments of community, I brought up their Westmonster venture, calling it Breitbart Lite – causing Wigmore to laugh – and asked if there was scope for the outlet to up its game.
“Look, it’s only been going a few months. The audience it speaks to at the moment is an echo chamber. You’re speaking to people who want an alternative view. But how do you make it factual. What we’re trying to do is, when you get those things you can get information about, you can only offer a roadmap to what is true. We offer that, giving people links to go and find things out for themselves.”
“the way they absorb information was fascinating. Talk Radio is huge in America but these micro-TV stations like Rebel Media and dare I say it Breitbart – even though they kind of missed the boat now because they stuck to one thing – there’s loads of them. People who stick to their own things they’re interested in. I mean, some of them are lunatics but there are some sensible ones. And what was most fascinating is who’s backing them. Murdoch and some of the other empires, the Netflix, the Googles are all backing these micro-TV stations.”
I pressed him on improving the quality of Westmonster’s output and the answer was fascinating.
“I just came back from CPAC, I was blown away. Extraordinary. Mostly young people, but the way they absorb information was fascinating. Talk Radio is huge in America but these micro-TV stations like Rebel Media and dare I say it Breitbart – even though they kind of missed the boat now because they stuck to one thing – there’s loads of them. People who stick their own things they’re interested in. I mean, some of them are lunatics but there are some sensible ones. And what was most fascinating is who’s backing them. Murdoch and some of the other empires, the Netflix, the Googles are all backing these micro-TV stations,” Wigmore told me.
He explained people like Murdoch were diversifying because of the low cost and the natural evolution to this little community model of social media use and information presentation. I suppose it’s the breaking of new monopolies by the oldest-guards of all, ironically. I found it intriguing and could have talked about it all day, but we were getting off track.
Returning to Nix and Cambridge Analytica, the original point of the conversation, I asked why there was animosity between Leave.EU and the data firm. Especially as they were fundamentally on the same page when it came to not having worked together when it would have been a problem.
“I’ll tell you what I think it is,” Wigmore said. “He came to one meeting with us, or maybe two, but we had four serious meetings with their team, but I don’t think he is fully aware or fully briefed on the conversations that we had. Which for a CEO is a bit damning. But, at the same time, you know, it’s not difficult. He had full sight of our designation document, he could have read it and would have known the dates when we met. There’s dates and email correspondence going backwards and forwards. So there’s no ambiguity from our end.”
I asked the obvious question in respect of business agreements, citing Arron Banks’s tweets on the specifics: did he think the fall out was over the money that would have been spent?
“They would have got a fortune,” Wigmore chuckled.
“…they said look, you give us a million pounds and we’ll get this campaign going and it will generate you six million pounds. So that was the scenario they suggested…they were convinced you could do it. But it was clearly illegal. Not only our lawyers said it but when the rules came out you could see you couldn’t accept foreign donations. So we dismissed it.”
I mentioned one of Banks’s tweets, specifically saying Nix had asked for £1 million and then suggested Cambridge Analytica could raise a further £6 million from foreign donors.
“That’s specific so that’s an interesting one,” he told me. “It came up in about November  and we asked them how do you go about raising funding in America. They hadn’t really tried here, but there’s lots of ex-pats in the United States so they said look, you give us a million pounds and we’ll get this campaign going and it will generate you six million pounds. So that was the scenario they suggested. We then had to get that checked with lawyers. We didn’t do that until the February  because we were doing the designation document and we discovered it was highly illegal so we canned it. And there’s an email trail describing precisely that.”
“They didn’t get ‘upset’ about it,” Wigmore continued. “But they were convinced you could do it. But it was clearly illegal. Not only our lawyers said it but when the rules came out you could see you couldn’t accept foreign donations. So we dismissed it. But that keeps coming up. It’s so random and so inconsequential. Because it’s in black and white. We explained to the Electoral Commission, we had a look at this, dismissed it, here’s our legal advice. We were that granular it went on to volumes. The Electoral Commission have got this, by the way. It’s not like we’ve hidden anything.”
“I’ll tell you where Arron got his money from. About a year before, we sold a law firm called New Law for £43 million and that money sat in an account and we used it to finance Brexit”
I pointed out the fact that a figure of £6 million had appeared a few times, with Banks putting the sum in, in loans, and another donor seeming to have to put the same in cash. Wigmore understood I was asking if they had, in fact, taken six million in foreign donations and obfuscated it.
“I’ll tell you where Arron got his money from. About a year before, we sold a law firm called New Law for £43 million and that money sat in an account and we used it to finance Brexit,” he said, adding that the Electoral Commission were aware of this and that financial records existed proving it.
This prompted a discussion about confusion over Bank’s fortunes, which have been subject to media coverage including in relation to the Panama and Paradise papers, and the Isle of Man’s Jim Mellon.
“Most of that’s bollocks,” he told me. “It’s not that,” he paused. “I can tell you each of these. He’s known Jim Mellon for years. They have the only bank on the Isle of Man which is privately owned – Conister Bank – and if you have a look it doesn’t really set the world alight. It’s tiny. I think it made something like £8 million last year.”
“When the wall fell in Berlin Jim borrowed a whole load of money from the West German government and went and bought up all the East German properties. He’s the largest landlord in Berlin and that’s how he made his money. And he’s made some very clever investments in other things.”
I pointed out that Mellon was “loaded” and Wigmore gave some background on the fortune.
“When the wall fell in Berlin Jim borrowed a whole load of money from the West German government and went and bought up all the East German properties. He’s the largest landlord in Berlin and that’s how he made his money. And he’s made some very clever investments in other things.”
I asked if Banks’s £6 million loans to the Brexit camapaign had been repaid.
“I don’t know actually. I’ll tell you what’s happened though. There’s the ongoing investigations. Then he got hit with a £2.5 million tax bill for his donation to Brexit, and then he’s been hit by HMRC for inheritance tax for £1 million he gave to UKIP. That’s ongoing at the moment.”
“As for the rest of Arron’s stuff, he’s got business interests in Bermuda, business interests in Gibraltar…you have these little things called MGA’s, like marketing companies, partnered with big re-insurance companies in Bermuda..He’s probably one of the biggest underwriters of legal expense insurance in this country.”
“As for the rest of Arron’s stuff, he’s got business interests in Bermuda, business interests in Gibraltar. If you’re an underwriter which is what Gibraltar was and is, you have these little things called MGA’s like marketing companies, partnered with big reinsurance companies in Bermuda. Which is what he’s had for years. He’s probably one of the biggest underwriters of legal expense insurance in this country. But most people don’t know that you see.” Wigmore continued.
I brought up Lesotho, which I’d discovered while looking into diamond mines owned by Banks.
“Lesotho was a bit different, that was micro-financing,” Wigmore said. “He invested in a church group of 25,000 women, never took the money back, just said you keep it. Because they don’t have a banking system. They’ve created a chicken farm, they’ve created a tomato farm. And it employs about 25,000 women. He’s got no other interests there. No other business interests in Lesotho.”
“Well, he had a look at that…it was all to do…crikey that was a while back. His main mines are in Kimberley and you always get speculation ‘are there diamonds here’. I don’t think they’ve ever found anything significant in Lesotho but they had a look.” Wigmore told me.
I asked about the call centre, which I understood to be in Lesotho from a Tweet of Wigmore’s.
“The call centre, that’s in Durban. It’s a pure call centre which does all the insurance services. So, if you want to buy insurance or make a claim, you go to South Africa,” he told me. “Elden, Go Skippy and all the other brands. It’s all documented. It’s puzzling that people don’t bother to go and read.”
I highlighted the problem as being the complex and diverse nature of the businesses as being a potential barrier to understanding.
“Of course,” Wigmore chuckled. “These are international businessmen, this is what they do.”
“Twitter, social media, you say stupid things and it escalates…We are guilty but it’s a weird environment. None of us expected Brexit to go the trajectory it took. You find yourself still in it and thinking what the hell am I doing.”
We turned to public facing communication and how this also can also create barriers to public perception and understanding. Wigmore laughed when I raised his constant use of “bellend” as a reply, but told him I understand the pressures and pitfalls of online campaigning.
“The onslaught was like a tidal wave of extraordinary criticisms,” he told me. “99% of the time completely unfounded. There’s nothing you can do about it, so sometimes playing with it and being provocative can be much more fun. You know the truth though.”
I asked if the pushback sometimes went too far, which Wigmore agreed it did, and we touched on the Carole Cadwalladr video which had, rightly, caused offence to many people.
“That was, look, we’ve apologised,” he said, sounding genuinely mortified. “It was just childish. We actually like Carole a lot. I will be the first to hold up our hands. Twitter, social media, you say stupid things and it escalates. It wasn’t fair at all because she is lovely. We are guilty but it’s a weird environment. None of us expected Brexit to go the trajectory it took. You find yourself still in it and thinking what the hell am I doing, I’ve got a day job. But the whole Trump thing has been fantastic, it’s just fascinating and we weren’t expecting it.”
“…they would have used their knowledge, their ‘Clickbait’ knowledge which is exactly what they called it, to discover other audiences”
Distracted again, I steered us back to Cambridge Analytica, and we talked about the level of business the company was pitching for and exactly what they would have done.
“They probably would have taken about £1.5 million from us,” Wimore told me. “And after the designation you’re given the electoral roll data. You can do two mailings and emails, all of that. They have taken that information and tried to find like audiences. It’s actually a fairly boring political technique.”
“But they would have said they would have used their knowledge, their ‘Clickbait’ knowledge which is exactly what they called it, to discover other audiences,” he added. “The fact is we discovered we had 700-800,000 people on Facebook and the level of engagement was ridiculous. One of our videos had 20 million views. With figures like that you know when you buy ads you’re going to get a better price. This just happened in America, with Trump paying less for ads than Hillary Clinton because the engagement was much higher. It was the same thing with us.”
I ventured that Cambridge Analytica must have come to the table with more than a couple of Powerpoint slides.
“Yes, look. Had we won designation you would have had to start work almost immediately. Because it was four weeks out. The preparatory pitch work you have to know what you are going to do and how. They knew what they were going to do. Prior to that you have to have a series of this is what, how, and why we are going to do this,” he told me.
So, did they provide sample messaging based on sample data? I asked.
“They didn’t do that because you couldn’t. Because we weren’t asking them to do that. The marketing bit we were confident we had. We thought they could provide the channel to do it. But what we discovered through our knowledge of marketing was we were already doing it, so we might not have used them anyway,” Wigmore told me.
“We found you have to build your own audience. So that’s what we did. On Facebook we had 270,000 paying members on our database. And they did polling every day, so we created our own online polling company. Weirdly, you have a lot of opponents joining your site and the question is how do you convert them? So you constantly poll them, which is what we did.”
We talked about the £50,000 ICO fine arising from spam messages before Cambridge Analytica got involved. Wigmore explained they were burned by a third party dataset they had bought in and decided to gather their own data from that point on, having taken it on the chin.
“We found you have to build your own audience. So that’s what we did. On Facebook we had 270,000 paying members on our database. And they did polling every day, so we created our own online polling company. Weirdly, you have a lot of opponents joining your site and the question is how do you convert them? So you constantly poll them, which is what we did,” he told me.
I pointed out this is exactly the same method Nix employs.
“It is. But we found out by accident,” Wigmore said. “We looked at the insurance businesses, and it was a bit of a finger in the air thing, but in the end we decided we probably knew more than they did.”
“…we don’t want to be a political lobby group in the United States, so we’re focusing on the insurance model in Mississippi. Gunster do referenda, so one of the ones they are on at the moment is the split of California. They need to have 400,000 people signed up before there can be a ballot…”
We discussed the future and a deal previously mentioned with Goddard Gunster.
“Goddard Gunster have gone off,” he said cryptically. “And we don’t want to be a political lobby group in the United States, so we’re focusing on the insurance model in Mississipi. Gunster do referenda, so one of the ones they are on at the moment is the split of California. They need to have 400,000 people signed up before there can be a ballot, so they are seeing how many people are interested.”
I asked Wigmore to take into account the current situation of foreign interference in American politics and asked if that was a good reason to disengage from that activity.
“That’s exactly why we’re not,” Wigmore replied, laughing again. “The truth is, Brexit was our thing. Commercially and for the insurance business we learned a lot about how to market. We’re not into politics, just on the outskirts. What Gunster do is on them, and what they do with Nigel is down to them and Nigel. We don’t own Nigel, by they way,” he chuckled.
“…when you become a public figure, like Arron did, the forensic way that people look at you and everything that you do means you’ve got to be bloody watertight. There’s so many regulators in the space we are in you can’t mess about.”
I put it to Wigmore that he and Banks were really in this for the money, to develop new markets in as diverse a way as possible for profit.
“It’s sticking to the nitty. Insurance is our thing, that’s what we know,” he replied.
In respect of the development of brand marketing and the insurance business, they are using the University of Mississippi data scientists to help develop the Big Data Dolphins model. Wigmore confirmed they met the faculty because they knew the state governor, who they had in turn met through their “Brexit journey which led them to Trump.”
“Some of these people we will then second to one of our businesses, whether in Bermuda or in the UK, to define how you sell to a consumer. That’s not politics thankfully,” Wigmore added.
I started to wrap up, summarising my view that Leave.EU, across the board had gone out and learned the regulatory framework, learned more from experts, and played the ball right down the line. Seemingly without going over it.
“It’s really a simple one,” he told me. “There’s an insurance regulator – which by the way we’ve had investigations of [sic] due to our involvement in Brexit – they are ferocious. You have a full stop out of place and they can close you down. It’s not a game. So you cannot be untruthful. Cannot play the margins. You have to be on the money with everything you do.”
“When you have a £250 million business and employ 3,000 people you have to be very careful. You can’t transfer money in and out of America. And then when you become a public figure, like Arron did, the forensic way that people look at you and everything that you do means you’ve got to be bloody watertight. There’s so many regulators in the space we are in you can’t mess about,” Wigmore said.
“Did we use our own bots? Well, we created our own bots by default by using the Google and Facebook techniques which were already there. We didn’t create a machine with strange people sat at computers.”
I told Wigmore I had to ask to ask him about Bots, due to previous statements he’d made, meaning automated social media accounts and scripts used to push messages.
“Bots, no. I’ll give you another interpretation of that if you’re talking to a techie guy,” he said. “I’ve been bollocked for this loads of times so I know it’s a device for finding someone like you. Then there’s an algorithm which responds to someone who likes what you like.
“Did we use our own bots? Well, we created our own bots by default by using the Google and Facebook techniques which were already there. We didn’t create a machine with strange people sat at computers,” he told me.
While I suggested we parked America on questions of Russia, due to indictments, I bluntly asked Wigmore what the vodka at the Russian Embassy and the relationship with the Ambassador was about. I told him, in my personal opinion, it looked awful from an outside perspective.
“I was a diplomat until I got fired and quite often I’d get invited to these things,” he told me. “The diplomatic community is quite small and you’re supposed to be networking. When we were at the UKIP conference we got introduced to one of their people, which isn’t unusual. Chatting away, Arron said his wife was Russian but had never been to an event, so we were invited to meet the Ambassador and said we’d talk about Brexit.”
“What we thought would be a formal meeting wasn’t, we didn’t even talk about Brexit. I was sat in Churchill’s chair and they were telling us the Embassy only pays £1 a year in rent for historic reasons and the Ambassador brought out this vodka, Stalin’s vodka of which only three were ever made, and it was delicious. We asked for another and he said no, but showed us his vodka cabinet with all these different types of vodka in. So, we tried every single one and had a generally good laugh. So that was how it happened and what was in the book was pretty accurate.” Wigmore said.
“ This is our naivety. This is where you learn …No one thought we were going to win. We didn’t really appreciate the machinations.”
Wigmore is incredibly savvy in the political sense, so I pressed him on his perception of the strategic value of Brexit to the Kremlin.
“Well, not really. This is our naivety. This is where you learn,” Wigmore told me.
“No one thought we were going to win. We didn’t really appreciate the machinations. We’re not politicians. They are naturally nervous about everything, and the optics of being seen with people, with various people – whether that’s Russian’s or Americans – we hadn’t really fully appreciated. So, when you write about things, bearing in mind Arron’s wife is Russian…”
I interjected to separate “Russians” from the “Russian State.”
“Well, it wasn’t on anybody’s radar, but the Russian’s were like of course its on everybody’s radar, but we didn’t really have anything except a landscape. We didn’t even know if a referendum would be called. It was all hypothetical because it was irrelevant at the time,” he continued.
“But afterwards, now, when we wrote it in the book it wasn’t a problem. Because the idea the Russians could manage to hypnotise both America and this country is completely ludicrous. You’ve got to go back to the premise of why people won, it was emotion, not hypnosis,” he added, less cheerfully than before.
“the idea that tweets can make a difference, or Facebook ads can make a difference. They can’t.”
Wigmore then took me off piste with an anecdote off the record, so I brought us back, rephrasing slightly. I set out that they had been very careful to not overstep the electoral law boundaries and inappropriate or illegal foreign donations and asked: Is it appropriate for a foreign power, which is regarded as hostile, to interfere in the electoral process?
“It’s totally inappropriate, of course it is,” he replied.
I pressed again, asking: How does it make you feel, having worked incredibly hard on this campaign, to have it subject to taint by the acts of a hostile state beyond your control?
“I think it’s total bollocks,” he replied. “The idea they could have influenced Brexit in any way, or Trump in any way, is farcical. You’ve got to understand that even if they’d spent a trillion pounds trying to make Brexit happen it would have made no difference whatsoever. And they didn’t. And the idea that tweets can make a difference, or Facebook ads can make a difference. They can’t.”
“…the key thing which we identified early on? Immigration. First, second and third in the twelve areas that were going to make Brexit happen. The idea that some ad from a Russian troll farm influenced Brexit is farcical…The idea of collusion is bonkers!”
“You’ve got to remember, the audience you’re talking to, it’s an emotional decision and the key thing for them comes back to…the key thing which we identified early on? Immigration. First, second and third in the twelve areas that were going to make Brexit happen. The idea that some ad from a Russian troll farm influenced Brexit is farcical. Nobody believed Brexit would happen and nobody knew Trump would happen,” he continued. “The idea of collusion is bonkers!”
I pointed out that there were very real indictments in the US, and a unanimous agreement across the US and UK intelligence agencies that Russian operations were ongoing.
“Reality check, reality check,” Wigmore replied. “Governments do this all the time. The idea that the Brits or Americans or Russians or French or Germans don’t play with things or try and interfere or influence…That’s their job! That’s what spies and spooks have always done.”
“Mueller has got people on financial irregularities from 2014, there’s no collusion and Trump would have been nowhere near it. But that’s not him and his core team are very small. The Republicans hated him for the reverse take over,” he added.
We left the interview not long afterwards, Wigmore returning to cheerful with a promise to follow up and have a sit down interview with Arron Banks present too.
As you’d expect, Wigmore had a parting shot up his sleeve.
“We were naive, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world but a campaign is chaos. There is no such thing as a plan which goes perfectly and we made some wondrous fuck ups, but we won!” he told me.
“We were naive, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world but a campaign is chaos. There is no such thing as a plan which goes perfectly and we made some wondrous fuck ups, but we won!”
Andy Wigmore and Arron Banks are due to give their evidence later this month.
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With an avg. 1.2M voters per MEP & Britain with 16% of EU GDP and 13% of the EU’s population yet having only 8% (if united) say whilst holding less than 3% of the various offices within the EU Do note The EUropean Parliament has no ability to make policy and has a Commission of unelected bureaucrats, thus clearly the EU is not even a pretence of being a democracy!Do note that many senior apparatchicks and even elected politicians speak openly of the ‘Post Democratic era’ with no sense of shame or irony and in complete contempt of the so called electorate – yet The EU & many of its vassal States/Regions are all too willing to slaughter people in Sovereign States, to impose The EU’s chosen brand of democracy on them!Now as President Junker announced in his ‘State of the union’ speech 2017 the aim is to create an EU military force and centralise ever more of the decision making and control!
The imposition of a Government and policies upon its vassal regions such as the peoples of Greece shows just how far from being a democracy the EU is.
There will be little or no change in Britain’s economic position, when we leave the EU, using a better negotiated, customised & updated version of the ‘Norway Model’ as a stepping stone to becoming a full member of the Eropean Economic Area, where all will benefit, as we secure trade relations with the EU’s vassal regions, with an EFTA style status and can trade and negotiate independently on the global stage, as members of The Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
Do not overlook the fact that politicians have plotted and schemmed since the 1950s and we have actually been vassals of the EU, when it was still using the aesopian linguistics and calling itself The Common Market in the early 1970s, a name the bureaucrats arbitrarily changed to EUropean Union in the early 1990s as they worked towards their long term goals of an ever closer centrally controlled Political and economic Union with its own anthem, currency, flag and rigid central control by its self appointed bureacrats towards a new Empirate –
It will take many years to rectify the mess our political class got us into and we have no other peacefull means by which to extricate ourselves than to depend on that self same self styled elite, who all too often forget they work for us!
One huge benefit of BreXit will be that we can negotiate with bodies like the WTO, UN, WHO, IMF, CODEX and the like, directly, in our own interest and that of our partners around the world, in both the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere at large; rather than having negotiations and terms imposed by unelected EU bureacrats and their interpretation of the rules handed down, as if they were some great achievement of the EU’s!The greatest change and benefit will be political, as we improve our democracy and self determination, with the ability to deselect and elect our own Government, with an improved Westminster structure, see >Harrogate Agenda<.
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