Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Far-right Bannon to open EU campaign office

  • Bannon, 64, was US president Donald Trump's chief strategist (Photo: gage skidemore)

US far-right strategist Steve Bannon is to open a Brussels office to help nationalist-populist parties in EU elections.

Called The Movement, the project will hire 10 people in time for the vote next May to draft policies, do pan-EU polling, and share know-how on methods such as data-led voter targeting, Bannon said in the Daily Beast, a US publication, this weekend.

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It will also see him spend half his time touring EU capitals from November onward, he said.

"Everybody agrees that next May is hugely important, that this is the real first continent-wide face-off between populism and the party of Davos," he said, referring to the Davos Economic Forum, a high-level business congress.

The European Parliament already has a far-right group, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, containing 43 out of the 751 MEPs in the assembly.

But a new "supergroup" could win up to one third of seats in the 2019 vote with the right support, Bannon said.

"Right-wing populist nationalism is what will happen. That's what will govern," he said.

"You're going to have individual nation states with their own identities, their own borders," he said.

Bannon, a 64-year old former White House chief advisor, media executive, and investment banker said he could "leverage" The Movement to make a big impact despite its small size.

The Brexit campaign spent just £7m (€8m) in the UK in 2016, he noted. Italian populist parties 5 Star Movement (5MS) and League also had few resources in this year's elections, he added.

"What the fuck?! £7m doesn't buy anything. It doesn't buy you Facebook data, it doesn't buy you ads, it doesn't do anything," Bannon told the Daily Beast.

"Dude! You just took the fifth largest economy in the world out of the EU for £7m!", he said.

"They [5MS and League] used their own credit cards. They took control of the seventh largest economy in the world - on their credit cards! It's insane," Bannon said.

The US strategist has in the past endorsed a convicted criminal, Tommy Robinson, from an extreme-right group, the English Defence League.

He indicated that his EU parliament supergroup would be open to most, but not all, right-wing outfits.

"We're not looking to include any ethno-nationalist parties in this, although guys like the Sweden Democrats or the True Finns are perfect casting," he said, naming two Nordic far-right parties.

The Movement's plan to use data-led voter targeting comes after Bannon and British firm Cambridge Analytica misused Facebook users' data in the 2016 US election campaign.

Chris Wylie, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, said Bannon had created and used a "psychological warfare tool".

The Facebook data scandal also involved millions of EU users.

But Bannon revelled in his frightful persona, saying: "He [Wylie] has literally made me the most brilliant evil genius. I'm a Bond villain. I kind of dig it".

The Movement would grow to rival The Open Society Foundation of George Soros, a Jewish philanthropist demonised by Europe's far right, Bannon added.

"Soros is brilliant … He's evil but he's brilliant," Bannon said.

The Movement's office would swell to 25 people after the 2019 elections, he noted.

Hungary to push ahead with 'Stop Soros' law on NGOs

The Hungarian government of Viktor Orban has said it will not wait until Friday, to hear a verdict of European legal experts on human rights, before going ahead with its bill curtailing NGOs who work with migrants.

Hungary offers cautious support to Bannon project

Populist forces in Hungary and Italy are gearing up ahead of the European parliament elections, as Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, embarks on a Eurosceptic populist movement. Italy's Salvini has joined with Bannon - Hungary appears more cautious.

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