Ukip will launch its own campaign to convince Britons to vote to quit the EU instead of joining with the two existing efforts, following concerns that its leader Nigel Farage is too divisive to head the movement.
The yet unnamed campaign, details of which will be released this week, will compete with the other two to become the official “No” effort, a designation giving it access to a grant, greater spending limits and more time on television.
The move, first revealed by the BBC, appears to be the latest power play by Farage, a former City commodities trader who led Ukip to pick up almost 4m votes (12.7 percent) in the general election in May through a beer-guzzling, chain-smoking, “tell it like it is” persona.
While Farage has been a boon for Ukip his rise has also led to hardening views from those wanting to stay in the EU, with data from the pollster Ipsos Mori showing support for leaving tumble in the last six months to a mere 27 percent.
There is also evidence of tension within the party over Farage’s reversal of a decision to step down in the event he did not lose his seat in the general election, reports having emerged last week that he is blocking Suzanne Evans from contesting next year’s London mayoral election.
Ukip’s campaign to leave the EU will compete with The Know and an unnamed group led by Business for Britain, a lobbying outfit.
Whilst some expect the various factions to coalesce once the Electoral Commission makes its choice, fissures are already emerging between the groups.
Last Friday The Know backer and Ukip donor Arron Banks told the eurosceptic blogger Peter North that he was tempted to tell him “I hope you die in a freak yachting accident”.
Attempts to unite the two existing campaigns also seem to have hit trouble because of disagreement over who would lead the united group.
Update: Earlier on Tuesday Farage said he would be willing to work with anyone to secure an exit from the EU. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he said:
“Let’s be clear. I am not refusing to work with anybody. I will work with absolutely anyone for us to get a No vote in this referendum.
“There are two competing groups who want to get the nomination for the No campaign. All I am saying is I am not choosing one side or the other. We will work with whichever of them gets the nomination.”
Image Credit – Ukip Bus, May 2009 by Euro Realist Newsletter