14 November 2016
One of Donald Trump’s closest British allies is drawing up plans to “drain the swamp” in the House of Commons by targeting MPs he deems lazy, ineffective or corrupt at the next general election.
Arron Banks, a close friend of Nigel Farage and a major Ukip backer, is considering ditching the party he funds and creating a new movement that would stand 200 parliamentary candidates “against the 200 worst, most corrupt MPs”.
The insurance tycoon believes that there is an anti-establishment sentiment in Britain that can be harnessed at election time, similar to the forces that have led to Brexit and to Mr Trump’s victory in the United States.
He believes that the widespread hostility to the decision to elect Keith Vaz, the Labour MP accused by the Sunday Mirror of paying for the services of two male escorts, who is under police investigation for alleged drug offences, to the justice select committee shows the appetite for wholesale change.
“You would rate MPs by (undesirability) with Keith Vaz at No 1, and field a great candidate, a military guy, doctor, someone who has done something with their life. It would be a one-off attempt to drain the swamp. It would be highly amusing to tease career politicians with a hot poker,” Mr Banks told The Times.
Mr Banks met Mr Trump in New York over the weekend. The president-elect campaigned to rid Washington of what he believed were corrupt networks of lobbyists, aides and politicians.
Mr Banks is modelling the movement on the insurgent candidacy of Martin Bell in 1997. The veteran BBC war reporter stood as an independent to defeat Neil Hamilton, the disgraced Tory MP accused of taking bribes from Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, in the cash-for-questions scandal.
Mr Bell went on to win the Tatton seat with a majority of more than 11,000, overturning what had been the third biggest Tory majority in the country. Mr Hamilton switched to Ukip and has been regularly at odds with Mr Banks who has called him a “creature from the gutter”.
Mr Banks said that this new group would not take explicit party positions, and instead the candidates would stand on a one-term promise to push through fundamental change in Westminster.
Among the ideas he thinks his new movement could support would be forcing through a change of the rules so that MPs can only hold office for two terms, abolition of the House of Lords and pushing for an elected senate, and insisting on a lower age limit of 40 for MPs to stop career politicians.
“It’s a very simple agenda: to destroy the professional politician. I like the idea of clearing the place out, setting new rules, maybe reducing the number of MPs. Not a party from the left or right. Just to clear out the worst lot,” Mr Banks said.
Mr Banks believes he could identify 200 MPs who are either lazy, careerist or in his view corrupt and mobilise against them. He is likely to have to fund the venture at the start but has a network of wealthy donors from his role setting up Leave.eu, one of the Brexit-supporting referendum campaign groups. Mr Farage could be involved in the future, but as the interim leader of Ukip is unable to discuss such a possibility.
Yesterday the backlash against Mr Vaz’s role in the committee gathered pace. Sir Edward Garnier, the former solicitor-general, told The Sunday Timesthat it was “inappropriate” for the Leicester East MP to be on the committee during the investigation.
“This is the justice select committee — it is not the drawing pins committee or the paperclips committee,” he said. “It is not appropriate for an MP under investigation by the police to be on the committee. Once the matter is resolved, perhaps he can come back on to it, but for the present, he should come off it.”