At 9:30pm on Sunday 27th October, staff working for the People’s Vote campaign received an email declaring that their director James McGrory and comms chief Tom Baldwin had been sacked with immediate effect.
The shock announcement was made by lobbyist and People’s Vote chairman Roland Rudd, who claimed that the changes would make way for a “more structured” campaign led by Patrick Heneghan, a former Labour elections chief who now runs the European Movement.
Rudd’s decision has baffled many supporters of a People’s Vote who cannot understand why he chose to plunge the campaign into civil war just days before Boris Johnson missed his self-imposed Brexit deadline and called an election. Over forty staff now find themselves locked out of their offices and unable to meet their would-be bosses without the supervision of security guards.
But while Rudd’s decision may appear rash, it is in fact the culmination of a months-long plan to take control of Open Britain, the entity that employs the vast majority of People’s Vote staff and succeeded the official Remain campaign, inheriting its data and resources.
Rudd did so by placing cronies on the Open Britain board, including his employee Daniel Gieve. He was then able to transfer ownership of Open Britain to a new business entity named Baybridge 2019 Limited that he had established in August.
Baybridge was previously registered to the address of Rudd’s lobbying firm Finsbury and has just three other directors who are his close allies. It means that the data and resources of the People’s Vote campaign are now owned by Rudd and the tiny cabal of millionaires detailed below.
Privately educated Rudd is the founder and chairman of lobbying firm Finsbury, from which he collected £5.9 million in pay from Finsbury last year while enjoying a £10,000 interest-free credit facility from the business. Rudd lives in a three-story townhouse in Kensington worth an estimated £20 million where he is said to employ uniformed staff to answer his front door and recently applied for planning permission on a new spiral staircase wine cellar in the property.
Finsbury has not published a full list of its clients since 2016, but the last available records show that the owners of the pro-Brexit Daily Mail newspaper were a client and the firm’s New York branch was reported to be working for Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Rudd says he has “huge respect” for Boris Johnson and claims that the Brexiteer-in-chief refers to him affectionately as “Rolly”. Rudd has also supported Johnson’s political projects, paying for him to take a flight on a private jet and becoming a trustee Johnson’s Garden Bridge project which collapsed earlier this year with losses of £53.5 million.
Joining Rudd on the board of Baybridge is Geeta Sidhu-Robb, the owner of a business selling detox plans and food products. Sidhu-Robb is named in the Paradise Papers along with her former husband Johan Robb in connection with a Cayman Islands entity named the Moyne Settlement. Her Nosh Detox brand is said to be worth millions, but all three of her registered businesses faced compulsory strike off action earlier this year and were forced to file amended accounts after overstating their assets, in one case by a factor of ten.
Innocent Smoothies founder Richard Reed is also on the Baybridge board. Reed sold his smoothies business to Coca-Cola for a reported £300 million, and now holds investments in Deliveroo and the private healthcare app Babylon.
Weyman is vice chair of Britain for Europe, one of the groups that plotted a breakaway from the main People’s Vote campaign this summer under name March for Change. A resident of Islington, Weyman started her career as an expert on family planning and sex education, but now describes herself as “a highly experienced mentor and coach” to chief executives.