The first time Guido met Sebastian Kale, he didn’t yet have blue hair. That comes later. As does his mission to tell the truth about how, in his words, the Remain campaign “cheated” during the referendum – and still lost.
By the time Guido met the 26 year-old university dropout turned self-proclaimed tech wizard in person, we’d been talking on a daily basis for hours at a time. Over a period of months, the vegan teetotaller told us how he had played a pivotal role at the heart of Stronger In, coming up with an idea that was, as he describes it, “Craig Oliver’s mindf*ck tool”.
“Is it fair to say you hacked democracy?” Guido asked him one night. He hesitates. “9 million quid,” Kale whispers, his flesh impossibly young – his age glaringly at odds with what he has done. “I’ll point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board.” It was Kale who came up with the idea to spend £9 million of taxpayer’s money on Remain campaign propaganda leaflets delivered to every household in the country.
Yet it is the £3 million he spent on “digital promotion” that explain his demeanour when I find him lying low in front of a photographer in our newsroom: guilty, brooding, indignant, confused.
“We used the data that 3.2 million people consented to give away after signing up for the Guardian app,” Kale explains, “and we targeted our propaganda to the three key Remain indicators: people who liked Bob Geldof, soy milk and the CBI on Facebook”.
Kale had other ideas, though they fell on deaf ears. “I sent a pitch to June Sarpong telling her I could harvest data from anyone who had ever posted a photo of an avocado on Instagram, but she sent an email back calling me a charlatan”. In evidence submitted to the DCMS select committee, Kale denies he has gone public as revenge for an excoriating 8,000 word blog Sarpong wrote about him last week.
“What if I told you,” Kale continues, “that we planned it all from the start”. The conference calls every morning to coordinate their messaging? The sharing data, suppliers and campaign materials? The collusion on spending, I ask?
“No, no, that was just the start,” he replies. “The real genius was managing to convince Carole Cadwalladr to write that it was the Leavers who cheated, when we outspent them by £6 million. We knew Peter Jukes would tweet any old nonsense, but even we thought the Observer would realise that they’d look mad”.
When Guido asked the Remain campaign for comment, they leaked our questions to the New European. Stay tuned for more revelations, every Sunday until we have no readers left…
UPDATE: Check the date…