Vote Leave Whistleblower calls BBC “disgraceful” over Darren Grimes crowdfunder report

Friday, July 27, 2018

The whistleblower who publicly accused Vote Leave of overspending during the Brexit referendum has criticised the BBC for reporting on a crowdfunder page of BeLeave founder Darren Grimes’ legal fees.

Shahmir Sanni, 24, first raised concerns about Vote Leave’s finances to The Observer in March, called the BBC “disgracful" for running a news piece about Darren Grimes’ crowdfunding campaign to cover his legal fees.

The report on the BBC website is a news story which does not include a link to Mr Grimes' crowdfunder, and they are not the only outlet to have reported on it - talkRADIO and others also reported the story.

Mr Grimes was charged £20,000 for his involvement in Vote Leave donating £657,000 to his leave campaign BeLeave.

Read more: Evidence given to Commons fake news investigation shows Vote Leave ran BeLeave adverts

Mr Sanni said Conservative MPs Priti Patel and Lucy Allan, who have come out in support of Darren’s crowdfunder, should be fired for “supporting someone who broke the law”.

“Look at what they did yesterday - the very sight of members of parliament showing their support to those who broke the law is absurd,” he said.

“If this happened in any other country they would be called traitors, they would be referred to as treasonous, that’s the kind of language they would use.

“Ten years ago something like this happening would be instantly shut down, any MPs showing support for people who have committed illegal activity; they would’ve had their membership of parliament revoked.”

Lucy Allan, who had faced criticism on Twitter for her support to Grimes, told talkRADIO: “Darren Grimes is crowdfunding the legal fees for his appeal against a finding made by the Electoral Commission.”

“Darren is entitled to an appeal and to seek legal representation.”

We’ve reached out to the Conservative party for a comment, but they’re yet to respond.

Priti Patel has not responded to our request for comment.

Mr Sanni, who has a crowdfunder page of his own to bring legal action against 10 Downing Street and his former employer, the TaxPayer’s Alliance, has said the reporting of Mr Grimes’ page is “undermining the Electoral Commission” and “democracy”.

“The fact that the BBC were publicly, in an article was linking to the crowdfunder, talking about a crowdfunder that has literally been made for someone who’s broke the law… I said it was a disgrace to journalism because it is.

“If you read the crowdfunder, it clearly undermines the authority of the Electoral Commission by saying it is biased, and it continues to lie, it’s preposterous, I just think it’s mad."

The BBC report does not link to Mr Grimes' crowdfunder or state that the Electorial Commission is biased - rather, it includes quotes from Mr Grimes where he accuses the Commission of "bias".

James Stephenson, News Editor at the BBC, wrote an open letter defending the broadcaster's Brexit coverage after journalist Nick Cohen criticised it. 

“Nick [Cohen] says our reporting of scandals surrounding the Brexit referendum "barely exists" and our coverage is "perfunctory". That will come as a surprise to our audience, as we have reported on every aspect of the story over the past two years.

“Take his main example, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica whistleblower story. When it broke, we covered it on our major news bulletins for eleven days in a row. Our Business, Economics, Media and North America Editors and Technology Correspondent all reported on aspects of the story.

“We also interviewed the whistleblowers themselves. Shahmir Sanni’s interview with Radio 4’s The World This Weekend was the lead story on the day his revelations were published and Chris Wylie was interviewed on two of our flagship programmes, The Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight.

“Carole Cadwalladr has been widely recognised for her tenacious journalism and we were keen to work with her. She had been working with another broadcaster, coming to Panorama only at a much later stage.”

Mr Sanni, along with fellow whistleblower Chris Wylie, presented evidence against Vote Leave to the Electoral Commission which lead to them being investigated. He questioned whether those who opposed his claims will renounce their assertions that he is a “liar”.

“Of course, It was my evidence that has led to this conclusion, anyone who has called my claims ludicrous or me a liar or a Remain plotter needs to answer to that.

“That includes MPs and journalists, from Harry Cole to The Sun, to Andy Wigmore, to all these journalists that called me a liar without even looking at the evidence, and now are taking part in a campaign to undermine the Electoral Commission. What next, the police? The government?”

Mr Sanni has raised over £45,000 in his own crowdfunder so far, after losing his job and having his sexuality inadvertently outed by 10 Downing Street in a statement about his allegations against Vote Leave.

Theresa May’s political secretary Stephen Parkinson revealed he’d been in a relationship with Mr Sanni in the statement.

However, due to legal reasons he’s unable to talk publicly about his ongoing case.

“I am in the process of that now, but I can’t talk about at the moment, because we’re going private about that, we don’t want it to go public first,” he added.

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