Banking party poopers

When we set up the Reclaim Party, we met every type of establishment obstacle


This article is taken from the April 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

Political parties are the lifeblood of democracy — but in today’s Britain the establishment institutions will do everything in their power to stop new parties being formed if they don’t approve of their aims.

The worst offender is the Electoral Commission, closely followed by the Charity Commission and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs — and now you can add the big banks to the list.

I have discovered this not once but twice in the past decade, first with Brexit Express BE (BEBE) and now with the Reclaim Party. I have been the sole funder of both parties, although I would love to be able to invite others to contribute.

Reclaim is headed by the admirable and courageous Laurence Fox with the vital agenda of arresting the subversion of Britain’s history, traditions and culture by our universities, woke activists and privileged media outlets such as the BBC. He is standing for Mayor of London under the Reclaim banner at the election next month. I founded Brexit Express in 2016 to campaign in the referendum against British membership of the EU and registered BEBE with the Electoral Commission in 2019 as a political party to fight for the implementation of the referendum result. But because of the success of the Brexit Party, it lay dormant.

It became clear during the Establishment’s 2016- 2019 referendum-reversal campaign that the Brexit agenda had become subsumed into the broader Culture War saga which divides and demeans Britain. Not only could Brexiteers be slandered as “racists”, but the institutions of the state were commandeered to serve the Continuity Remain purpose. The Electoral Commission, the Charity Commission and HMRC (with its inheritance tax grab on donations) were all mobilised to attack people like me who held the wrong views, as defined by the present orthodoxy, and they did so attack us.

So in 2020, with Brexit achieved, the members decided to rename BEBE as the Reclaim Party and re-register it with the Electoral Commission as a political party to fight the Culture War which many of us see as the most important issue of our time. You might have thought this would be a simple process, but the Electoral Commission put every obstacle in our way, giving lengthy and unjustified credence to a complaint by a small Manchester-based charity called the Reclaim Project that the two organisations might be confused.

The Electoral Commission blithely opines that it is not necessary to have a bank account

The Reclaim Party was finally registered in February this year and is now free to pursue its political activities — up to a point. For we encountered another major obstacle — the refusal by any major bank to accept our business.

Over the past two years BEBE was turned down by Svenska Handelsbanken, Arbuthnot Banking (bankers to the Brexit Party), Starling Bank and HSBC, and Reclaim has encountered the same problem. In all cases I was prepared to state that the only donor (for the time being) would be myself, thus removing any fears that bank compliance officials might have about possible money-laundering or “know your client” legislation. I might add that I have worked in finance for 40 years, co-founding two successful fund management companies.

Banks may be misapplying the Politically Exposed Person (PEP) designation, but if they are doing so in respect of Reclaim they are mistaken in two respects.

First, the PEP definition is that anyone so designated should already hold public office, which does not apply to the Reclaim Party. Second, the financial institution is only required to perform additional due diligence. A common feature of the rejections BEBE/Reclaim has received is a refusal to provide any explanation, thereby further complicating any remedial concessions we might be able to make.

The Reclaim Party cannot recruit supporters and ask them for donations or fees, while every other party is free to do so

The Electoral Commission blithely opines that it is not necessary to have a bank account. This ignores the reality that a political party cannot function without direct access to the national banking system. I defy any business, organisation or individual to be able to operate without a bank in the modern world. 

We have finally managed to open an account for Reclaim (thank you Metro Bank), but only on the highly impractical condition that I remain the sole provider of funds. Thus the Reclaim Party cannot recruit supporters and ask them for donations or fees, while every other party is free to do so. Indeed, none of them could survive without such a subsidy. 

And members of the public are barred from spending their own money in support of a political party whose beliefs they share. This is an extraordinary situation in a democracy. 

The Electoral Commission is, of course, the body that persecuted the Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes, fining him £20,000 for alleged breaches of electoral law during the Brexit campaign, a fine overturned by a judge on appeal. Nobody at the Commission resigned or was fired, despite the judge dismissing all the charges brought during a legal action incurring hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs, charged to the taxpayer.

The Political Parties and Referendums Act 2000 must be amended so as to remove all barriers, including those in the banking system, essential to political participation which it currently erects. 

You don’t have to share my political views to be concerned that the founding and funding of a new political party is being made so difficult by the institutions that are supposed to support and develop a democratic society.

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