Question Time this evening could be particularly interesting if the right questions are asked.
The show will feature an author, Isabel Oakeshott, who ghost wrote ‘The Bad Boys of Brexit’ for Arron Banks, the main funder of Farage’s Leave EU campaign.
It also features Rory Stewart MP, ex chair of the Defence Select Committee, ex Diplomat and senior official in Bagdad, playing a key role in Provisional Authority. He worked for the Foreign Office and has the striking career profile of a SPOOK.
So Rory, you might imagine, would be very interested to meet someone with information about links to Russia and Russian interference in British politics.
Here he is sitting on a public panel with someone who boasted access to Arron Bank’s email account.
A Guardian journalist, Carole Cadwalladr obtained a few emails that evidenced links between Banks and the Russian Embassy. Knowing that Oakeshott had fuller access she approached her for information at which stage Oakeshott admitted that having trawled through the emails she had failed to notice the Russian connection or consider it relevant.
But for Oakshott talking to Russian spooks isn’t that unusual an activity, as when she and Lord Ashcroft were researching ‘Call me Dave’, the book that exposed David Cameron’s porcine proclivities, she consulted, ‘Anonymous Russian Security sources’. She admits to seeking out Kremlin and KGB sources for information for a book she was writing about the then British Prime Minister. She met, she says, “a very high level source at a hotel in Sochi”.
So for Oakshott meeting Russian Agents isn’t a strange or suspicious activity and she failed to attach significance to copious email correspondence and meetings between Arron Banks and Russian sources wishing to influence the Brexit referendum.
Banks made the largest political donation in British history when he gave £8 million to the Leave campaign. He is strangely unable to give a full account of where the money came from but denies any of it was Russian. But it is well known that there were multiple meetings between the leaders of Leave EU and high-ranking Russian officials, from November 2015 to 2017.
I don’t wish to compromise ongoing criminal investigations into Arron Banks but it is safe to say;
Banks was introduced to a Russian businessman, by the Russian ambassador, the day after Leave EU launched its campaign, who reportedly offered Banks a multibillion dollar opportunity to buy Russian goldmines.
Banks went to Moscow in February 2016 to meet key partners and financiers behind a gold project, including a Russian bank.
There was continuing extensive contact in the run-up to the US election when Banks, his business partner and Leave EU spokesman Andy Wigmore, and Nigel Farage campaigned in the US to support Donald Trump’s candidacy.
And yet it seems to be Jeremy Corbyn who attracts the most attention when Russia is mentioned. Even after a key funder of the Tory party, Lord Ashcroft, had contact through Isabel Oakshott with KGB agents to get information on a Conservative Prime Minister with the aim of destroying his reputation.
So over to you Rory, ask a few questions.