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Referendum Costs

The branding agency that delivered Brexit How did the UK’s pro-Brexit campaigns use the same obscure branding agency, if their campaigns weren’t coordinated? ask Peter Geoghegan & Adam Ramsay

W

e didn’t expect to end up in a suburban street in the town of Ely. But then, we didn’t expect to find a Saudi prince or a Danish ‘private banker’ embroiled in the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Brexit dark money. We didn’t expect a connection with a Bengali gun-running incident. Or that the Tories would end up relying on the DUP to secure a wobbly majority. So a quiet corner of Cambridgeshire was hardly the biggest shock. We went to Ely to find out more about Brexit, and how it was bankrolled. You see, each of the different campaigns to leave the EU was meant to be a separate organisation. You can’t simply set up a new front every time your current one is approaching its spending limit. And we know they are all different. The two main ones – Vote Leave and Leave.EU – had a massive fight that was reported all over the media. And the DUP has been very clear with us that there was no co-ordination between their campaign and the others. But what’s also true is that all these different campaigns used the same obscure branding agency. Over the course of the final few weeks of the referendum, the Electoral Commission Website tells us, Arron Banks’ Leave.EU, the official Vote Leave campaign, Grassroots Out, Ukip and the Democratic Unionist Party collectively spent more than £800,000 with Soopa Doopa, a branding

agency based, you guessed it, in the tiny Cambridgeshire city of Ely. As part of their Brexit campaign, the DUP spent almost £100,000 with Soopa Doopa, buying 15,000 Corex Boards, 5,000 bags, 100,000 window stickers, 7,000 t-shirts and 50,000 badges. On BBC Northern Ireland, the Stephen Nolan Show recently asked its listeners if they had seen any of the DUP branded Brexit material. Our organisation, openDemocracy, did spot some of this, but not in Northern Ireland – in Edinburgh. Meanwhile, Leave.EU spent £20,652.25 with Soopa Doopa, Grassroots Out £42,000, Ukip £18,000, and Vote Leave £637,108.80. In the whole of 2014-15, Soopa Doopa had a turnover of just three-quarters of a million pounds. 

Over the final few weeks of the referendum, Arron Banks’ Leave.EU, the official Vote Leave campaign, Grassroots Out, Ukip and the Democratic Unionist Party collectively spent more than £800,000 with Soopa Doopa

Same obscure agency It’s been revealed before – partly by us, (see The Dark Money That Paid For Brexit, ColdType issue 135 – Pages 16 to 19), and partly by the excellent Carole Cadwalladr at the Observer newspaper – that the various different Brexit campaigns all used the same obscure data analytics company: the Canadian firm Aggregate IQ. The campaigns dismissed this as coincidence. DUP’s campaign manager, Jeffrey Donaldson, told us he ‘couldn’t remember’ how he heard of them, despite spending more than £32,000 with the company. www.coldtype.net | August 2017 | ColdType

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ColdType Issue 144 - August 20174  

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