29 March 2016
Arron Banks is lost in Westminster. The 50-year-old insurance millionaire who is bankrolling the Grassroots Out (GO) campaign to leave the EU wants to join Nigel Farage for a lunchtime pint but can’t find the way out of his Millbank offices.
After several dead ends, he finally emerges through the building’s bin store, only to be defeated by the 500-metre walk to the Ukip leader’s watering hole. Irritated, he gives up and hails a cab; the Westminster bubble is not Banks’s favourite place.
The Bristol-based founder of GoSkippy and Southern Rock insurance is spending upwards of £3.5m of his estimated £200m fortune to try to persuade Britons to vote to leave the European Union. He is masterminding the campaign not from London but from his offices overlooking a Premier Inn next to junction 17 of the M5.
Being out in the shires suits his billing of the 23 June referendum as “the peasants’ revolt all over again”. Plus, it is closer to the two mansions he owns in south Gloucestershire, one bought from the Tubular Bells musician Mike Oldfield.
Until recently, Banks was a Tory donor, but after becoming “very disenchanted” with David Cameron in 2014, he switched and gave £1m to Ukip. He had initially been planning to give Farage £100,000, but when William Hague angered him by saying he didn’t know who Banks was, he added another zero.