Lord Frost has written an excellent column in today’s Telegraph warning that if Coutts is allowed to get away with ‘de-banking’ Nigel Farage, none of us are safe. Here‘s how it begins:
Every so often, a news story captures our society’s dysfunctions. Often only minor in itself, it is its very pedestrian quality that is so revealing. The actors aren’t playing to the gallery. They are saying what they really think when they believe that no-one is listening, and acting as they really want to when they think that they can get away with it. That is why they so often capture the spirit of the age.
The saga of Nigel Farage and his Coutts bank account is one such story. The only appropriate response to it is cold fury, mixed with deep, deep, apprehension.
Someone has lost their bank account because the bank didn’t like their opinions. Not very long ago, this would have seemed literally incredible. “Why would the bank care about your opinions?” we would have said. It’s a free country, isn’t it?
The Farage case is important for many reasons, but the most obvious is that, if we don’t stop it here, the same thing will happen to many others. Indeed, it is clear, from the accounts that have since emerged, that it already has. “Nigel is one of the best-known politicians in the country,” people will be thinking. “If even he can be left without a bank account, then obviously it can happen to me, too.” This chilling effect is why it’s so crucial that this never happens again.
It’s important, too, because of the childish yet dangerous politics that underlie it.
Dangerous because it is so obvious from the now-released Coutts dossier that the bank’s decision-makers see only one world view as reasonable. Opinions widely held by many people, including me – criticism of net zero, doubts about diversity, equity, and inclusion, uncertainty about the wilder fringes of the LGBTIQ+ etc movement, and of course support for Brexit and concerns about immigration – all are treated as not just a matter for disagreement but an offence against today’s household gods.
Sign up, or be cast out. Anyone who doesn’t believe that we are already in a culture war – and losing it – should read the Farage dossier.
And it’s childish, too. The Coutts papers read as if written by gullible schoolchildren with a Marxist teacher. Criticising BLM is “incit[ing] race hate”. Wikipedia is cited as if it were a reliable source – as is the far-Left boycott group “Hope not Hate”. Even the repeated comment that Farage is “polite to staff” is revealing, as if they find it surprising from someone with his opinions.
But the Farage affair has also highlighted the decline in our culture of freedom. Far too few people spoke up when he first made his allegations. All too many (step forward Jon Sopel) were ready to believe the feeble and, in the light of events, clearly misleading Coutts “explanation” for its actions, relayed by the BBC. And many actively rejoiced in his ‘de-banking’ – a horrible neologism, by the way, hopefully going down the memory hole fast.
Plainly, views of Nigel himself had a role here. As so often with SW1 commentators, their dislike of the man blinded them to reality. With so many people going public about their loss of banking facilities for political reasons, was it really plausible that Farage would not turn out to be one of them, too? But the initial glee at his misfortune infected even some who might have been expected to be more sympathetic. One leading figure at a conservative magazine summed it up yesterday, writing (not ironically): “Very bitterly regretting that Coutts appears to be in the wrong here and Nigel Farage in the right.”
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: The Telegraph has compiled a list of customers Coutts has deemed perfectly acceptable over the years, including General Pinochet, Mafia leader Emilio Di Giovine, Russian oligarchs and human rights abusers.