Cancel Culture In Retreat

The story that has consumed the United Kingdom over the last week or two is the cancellation of Nigel Farage by Coutts, an exclusive private bank owned by National Westminster Bank, commonly known as NatWest. Farage, as you may remember, was a driving force behind Brexit, and Britain’s establishment has never forgiven him. Coutts precipitously fired Farage as a client and canceled his accounts.

Later, Coutts lied about the incident, claiming that Farage was canceled because he didn’t have enough money to qualify for their services. That turned out to be false.

There have been many articles about the controversy in the British press, but today’s article in the Wall Street Journal is a good place to catch up:

Farage said Coutts, famed for banking the late Queen Elizabeth II, ditched him because of his pro-Brexit and anti-woke views. During a charity dinner, [Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest] sat next to the BBC’s business editor and told him that Farage was axed because he wasn’t a profitable customer. The journalist wrote a story the next day and later said he had relied on a “trusted and senior source.”

Farage ultimately landed a sucker punch. He acquired a 40-page document from Coutts that included a list of his political views that the bank felt created “significant reputational risks of being associated with him.”

The document described Farage’s views as “xenophobic and racist” and said he was “considered by many to be a disingenuous grifter,” charges Farage has denied.

As the story has continued to escalate, Rose herself has now resigned from NatWest. BBC has apologized for its incorrect report.

An email laying out the decision—sent this March and included in the document published by Farage—pointed to “controversial public statements which were felt to conflict with the bank’s purpose.” The bank sensed the danger from axing the Brexit cheerleader in Britain’s febrile media environment: it could face negative coverage if Farage decided to “go public,” the file said.

Tories joined Farage to speak out about the risk that banks could cut off customers for having antiestablishment or strong conservative views. David Davis, a former cabinet minister, called the decision to close Farage’s account “thinly veiled political discrimination.”

One of the problems with the “reputational risk” rationale is that it is always a one-way street. I don’t know who provides banking services to Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who is a notorious socialist and anti-Semite, but I’ve never heard of a company declining to do business with him because of potential damage to the company’s reputation. And it should be remembered that on Brexit, the issue that enrages liberals like those at Coutts, Farage represented the majority of U.K. voters, while the liberal banking executives are enforcing the will of the minority.

Farage, meanwhile, has gone on offense, demanding that the entire NatWest board of directors resign. And he pledges to help others who have been hurt by left-wing prejudice in the banking industry.

For now, what we can say for sure is that cancel culture has sustained a welcome setback.

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