Following reports of a furious row between Labour Leave and Vote Leave in the Guardian and the Times, I understand that Labour Leave will later today issue a statement confirming that it is going to work as an independent group and will not be supporting Vote Leave’s bid for official designation from the Electoral Commission.
The Labour group has decided to work with other grassroots groups such as ‘GO’, set up by Tory MP Peter Bone and Labour MP Kate Hoey, after a split between party donor John Mills and other Vote Leave staff. Nick Watt and Sam Coates published extracts of a letter in which Mills complains about bickering and a loss of trust between the two groups. It also said ‘we have lost Kate. She is not prepared to by co-chair of Labour Leave any more, but she has been persuaded not to announce this’.
I’ve just spoken to Hoey, who says:
‘I have made it clear I was not prepared to work with Vote Leave. Labour Leave will be making a statement later today on its official position but we are determined to be an independent group.’
The tensions centre on personality clashes as well as a disagreement about who else should be involved in the campaign. Vote Leave are keen – rightly – not to run a Ukip-ish referendum campaign, hence their refusal to merge with Leave.EU, but they do have the party’s only MP and many of its other key players apart from Nigel Farage involved. But others are worried that the campaign is currently too Westminster-focused, hence the creation of ‘GO’.
If the referendum is indeed held on 23 June, these groups have very little time in which to reach some sort of ceasefire and make their case to voters.