Nigel Farage is kickstarting Ukip’s ‘No’ campaign this week, having grown fed up with the lack of momentum from other corners. On the Today programme, the Ukip leader explained he is happy to work with either of the two groups vying to be the designated the Out campaign by the Electoral Commission — the Matthew Elliot Westminster-based campaign vs. the Arron Banks outside Westminster group:
‘Ukip is a political party and clearly whoever gets the designation as the official No campaign will have to be an umbrella of some kind and ‘The No’, n o, see that as being politicians from individual parties and ‘The Know’, k n o w, are looking to put together a non-political campaign of businessman, sportsman and entertainers.
‘The unique role Ukip can play within this is that we’ve got 50,000 members 100s of branches across the campaign and we can do the ground campaign.’
Regardless of which side is selected, Farage said he will work with ‘absolutely anyone’ to get a No vote:
‘I’m not refusing to work with anybody. In fact, the opposite: I’ll work with absolutely anyone for us to get a No vote in this referendum.’
‘I’m not choosing one side or the other. I will work with whichever of them gets the nomination, although I have to say privately because I hope that before we get to that point, there is a coming together of the two of them I can see both have skills.’
Clearly, Farage would love to lead the No campaign himself. In June, Farage said he was prepared to lead the No campaign but believed it would end up being someone else. He may have been rebuffed by Banks or Elliot but Farage said ‘Oh no, absolutely not’ on the question of whether he will seek to lead it, noting ‘I haven’t got a clue at this stage’ who it will be.
And if any proof was needed as to why those campaigns might have qualms about letting Farage near the spotlight, it came seconds later. Mishal Husain asked him about the comments the party’s deputy chairman Suzanne Evans made about him being seen as ‘divisive character’. Farage responded:
‘She did say that and she also said that we shouldn’t major on immigration in the referendum and I just think she was wrong.’
To which Evans responded on Twitter:
I didn't say Nigel was divisive or that immigration shouldn't be a major part of the No campaign. Quite the opposite. #R4today stirring.
— Suzanne Evans (@SuzanneEvans1) September 1, 2015
Clearly, internal tensions are still rife within Ukip and the fact Farage chose to air this dirty laundry on national radio shows why both of the No campaigns are looking elsewhere for a leader. Adopting Farage as a spokesman would risk Ukip’s internal warfare over messaging and personalities being a distraction from the core Out message. For now, Ukip will get on and do its own thing, focusing mostly on immigration. Whether that helps the wider Eurospectic cause remains to be seen.