What you need to know about Darren Grimes

What you need to know about Darren Grimes

As Editor of BrexitCentral, it is my privilege and pleasure to have three extremely able deputy editors working with me: Hugh Bennett, Darren Grimes and David Scullion. And I doubt it will have escaped your notice that since the referendum, Darren’s name has occasionally cropped up in the press – but a great deal over this last weekend in particular. So I thought it appropriate at this juncture to set out some facts as I see them and tell you a little about the Darren I know.

In advance of EU referendum, Darren established the web-based BeLeave campaign to push a pro-Brexit message tailored to his generation of first-time voters and those in their twenties. In the final weeks before polling day, BeLeave was gifted a six-figure sum by the official Vote Leave Campaign. This is something which has occasioned much comment – but donating to other campaigns in this way is something which both official Leave and Remain campaigns did.

However, as part of the ongoing efforts by some disgruntled and disappointed Remain campaigners to deny the legitimacy of the referendum result, some have sought to present Darren and BeLeave as having been some kind of puppet of Vote Leave, colluding with them in breach of official rules. And in extraordinary interviews with Channel Four News and The Observer over the weekend, Shahmir Sanni – who worked with Darren on the BeLeave campaign – has joined those making that claim. On Channel Four News, Sanni claimed that “there was no moment where we weren’t involving Stephen Parkinson in BeLeave’s processes”.

Parkinson was then National Organiser of the Vote Leave ground operation (and is now Political Secretary to Theresa May) yet – extraordinarily – Sanni did not feel it relevant to disclose as he made these allegations that he was in an 18-month relationship with Parkinson, which only ended in September last year. Parkinson, who denies all allegations made against him in the programme, stated in terms that he “had no responsibility for digital campaigning or donations on the Vote Leave campaign” and that the version of events Sanni is now promoting is “factually incorrect and misleading”.

I was not involved in the Vote Leave campaign (at the time I was Chief Executive of an organisation which had not taken an official stance on the referendum question) so I have no first-hand knowledge or experience of what occurred. However, it only takes a reading of The Observer from this weekend to establish that Darren’s campaign was no Vote Leave puppet. In fact, the paper acknowledged the central role of Darren in creating a new and different campaign during the referendum – a portrayal which is (and they don’t seem to have realised this) precisely the opposite of what his detractors are attempting to allege, i.e. that BeLeave was somehow an emanation of Vote Leave. The article states:

“When Sanni joined the BeLeave team, it had already become extraordinarily successful in appealing to liberal and leftwing supporters on Facebook and other social media, using videos and other messaging that often appeared to be the exact opposite of the largest Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns. Instead of bleak scaremongering about immigration, most notoriously Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster, their adverts were pro-migration, feminist and witty.”

This acknowledges three important things:

  • First, that BeLeave was Darren Grimes’ creation – because as Sanni admits, it existed before he joined it;
  • Second, that it was an entirely distinct campaign from Vote Leave; and
  • Third, that it was innovative, ground-breaking and witty – very different to the tone struck by the official Vote Leave campaign.

Many of the activists and media outlets pursuing Darren over all of this evidently remain in a state of fevered disbelief that 17.4 million of their compatriots voted for the UK to leave the European Union. They are clinging with increasing desperation to the notion that the referendum was somehow illegitimate and that this means that Brexit can be stopped.

It’s interesting that the Observer journalist leading their charge on this story, Carole Cadwalladr, refused yesterday to countenance investigating the Remain campaign in a similar way. After all, as Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman reminded us in a tweet yesterday:

In a later tweet he added:

If it was stacked, it was stacked against Leave. I voted Remain but this is ridiculous.

Indeed, the £625,000 handed by Vote Leave to BeLeave is dwarfed by the £9.3 million (of taxpayers’ cash) that David Cameron and George Osborne’s Government spent on propaganda instructing us to vote Remain – not a pound of which was counted as campaign expenditure.

And if those seeking to reverse the result think the country is with them, they need look no further than BMG polling published last week which showed that 57% agree that “the government should get on with implementing the result of the referendum to take Britain out of the EU and in doing so take back control of our borders, laws, money and trade”, with just 22% disagreeing.

For now, we have to await the result of the third Electoral Commission investigation into these issues (over which it has twice already found no evidence of any wrongdoing).

But in the meantime, I want to pay tribute to Darren. In the eighteen months he has been working with me at BrexitCentral, he has shown himself to be one of the brightest and most refreshing voices to have emerged from the referendum campaign. Last summer, for instance, he wrote this brilliant demolition of one of Vince Cable’s attacks on the elderly for supposedly destroying the future of the young and here he is talking Brexit on Radio 5 Live a few months ago:

He has established and taken charge of the BrexitCentral podcast and uses his brilliant digital and design skills on a daily basis to promote our work and the positive case for Brexit across our social media channels. And his good humour in the office is appreciated by all of the team.

The Guardian-reading classes (and Guardian-writing classes for that matter) constantly bemoan the lack of diversity in those playing a role in political life. So you might think that they would welcome the participation in the arena of a young working-class son of County Durham who was brought up in a single-parent household (who also happens to be gay). But alas his worldview does not fit theirs’, so his contribution is dismissed.

The attacks on him – attempting to make him collateral damage from yet another desperate and flailing attempt by those in denial of the referendum result – are sad and depressing. It is pathetic stuff and the motivations of some of those involved seem convoluted and questionable.

No one surely should have to go through the torment of repeated Electoral Commission investigations into the same question time and again. But Darren’s resilience in the face of the media- and Remain-inspired onslaught is humbling and rather belies his youth – he is still just 24.

I know that Darren will again rise above the attacks, as his undoubted talents allow him to flourish in his chosen field. So in the meantime you, the readers of BrexitCentral, will continue to have the privilege of being able to enjoy and appreciate the work of Darren Grimes for quite a while yet.