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Shapps condemns ‘vicious’ attacks on banks as Barclays forced to pull Latitude sponsorship

Latitude music festival
Performers had pulled out of Latitude over accusations Barclays was helping fund Israel's weapons trade

Grant Shapps has condemned “vicious” attacks on banks and defence companies after Barclays was forced to pull its sponsorship of Latitude festival amid pressure from pro-Palestine activists.

The defence secretary warned that recent protests defied democracy by subjecting British businesses and institutions to “ill-informed intimidation and violence”.

Writing in The Telegraph, he said: “There is always a place for reasoned debate and protest. Democracy depends on it.

“But too often right now we are seeing vicious, ugly attacks on lawful businesses and institutions that are the exact opposite of what democracy should be.”


It came as Barclays suspended its sponsorship of all Live Nation festivals for the rest of the year, including Latitude, Download and the Isle of Wight festival.

This was in response to a recent backlash over the bank’s role in providing financial services to defence companies supplying weapons to the Israeli army.

Musicians including Irish singer-songwriter CMAT, and comedians such as Joanne McNally and Grace Campbell – the daughter of former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell – announced they were pulling out of Latitude because of ties to Barclays.

Several bands including Pest Control, Speed, Scowl, Zulu and Ithaca had also pulled out of Download, which began in Leicestershire on Friday.

The boycott followed attacks on at least 20 Barclays branches across England and Scotland earlier this week by pro-Palestine activists, who also targeted the bank for investing in fossil fuels.

At least 20 Barclays branches were attacked by pro-Palestine protesters earlier this week
At least 20 Barclays branches were attacked by pro-Palestine protesters earlier this week - Guy Smallman/Getty Images

It came after Barclays faced protests at its annual meeting in Glasgow last month, during which pro-Palestine hecklers disrupted proceedings.

The bank has been criticised for its relationship with Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems. Barclays has said Elbit also supplies the Ministry of Defence and is helping to support Ukraine.

It has also said that while it provides “vital financial services” to defence companies, it does not directly invest in them.

A spokesman for the bank said: “Barclays was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024.

“The protestors’ agenda is to have Barclays debank defence companies which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe. They have resorted to intimidating our staff, repeated vandalism of our branches and online harassment.

“The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions. It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

Joanna Warrington at activist group Fossil Free London welcomed the suspension of the sponsorship deal, calling it a “major win for the movement to boycott Barclays”.

Ms Warrington said activists would now put pressure on Wimbledon to end their sponsorship deal with the bank ahead of the Championships starting in two weeks.

It marks the latest assault on cultural institutions after investment giant Baillie Gifford was forced to cancel its sponsorship deals with all UK literary festivals in the wake of protests over its alleged links to Israel and fossil fuel companies.

The Hay Festival, Henley and Cheltenham literary festivals are among the events to have cut ties with Baillie Gifford, which has been a long-standing supporter of the arts.

The head of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society this week refused to follow suit, as she said her organisation was “enormously grateful” for the investment firm’s support.

In an impassioned defence of Britain’s armed forces, Mr Shapps said the argument that it was unethical to invest in defence was “simply wrong”, adding that it would be “immoral” for investors to turn their backs on the sector.

He added: “A strong UK defence industry is the bedrock of our national security, protecting the supply of equipment that our service personnel use to protect us, the weapons we need to deter our enemies, and the ability to support our allies’ armed forces.

“The vast majority of people in this country understand why defence firms are so vital, and why banks including Barclays should be wholeheartedly backed. They should not be subject to ill-informed intimidation and violence.”