The Yes to AV campaign faced many, many problems. Thankfully, one of them was never whether or not we’d have competition as to who would be the officially designated Yes campaign for Electoral Commission purposes. We were scared that some bunch of weirdos might come out of the woodwork at the last moment though and try and claim it for themselves. Because the thing is, even if the other campaigning group looking for official designation was either a deliberate joke or a mad, one man band living above a garage in Dorset, there still would have had to have been an official, drawn out process to decide which of us got the official designation in the end. It would have been time consuming and a PR nightmare, an open target for the No campaign to hit again and again.
This past week, Nigel Farage has popped up in the media essentially saying in couched terms (remember when he was the straight talker? How times change) that he was the man to lead the EU referendum No campaign, and if the current group vying to be the be the official campaign can’t accept that, perhaps a UKIP backed bunch will trying and take the crown themselves. Of course, he didn’t say any of this directly, but he wasn’t being subtle either – nothing he did say makes any sense unless seen through this light.
This probably seems like a minor technical issue to some of you, but trust me, it isn’t. Only one campaign gets to be the “official” one on either side of the debate, and with it comes huge advantages and responsibilities. If there’s a free mail shot, you get to choose the literature in full and where it goes to. The referendum broadcasts, free prime time airtime, are yours to do with as you see fit. Grants will be given to you for certain overheads to be covered. The official campaign also has to be responsible for all spending by other groups unless they can prove there is no connection, which will be a big task on an issue as emotive as the future of Britain and the European Union.
I have said since the election that I thought Farage would be a drag on the No campaign; that he’d try and do his own thing in spite of their protests to lie low. But I never thought he go as far as this, trying to essentially legally hijack the campaign itself. And logistically, why not? UKIP have as much of a right to it as anyone else, I suppose, being a political party that is essentially dedicated to the issue over all else. But Farage and those around him, like Arron Banks, should think about the drawbacks of The Know (the thing even has a name already). Splitting the No camp could be disasterous for them. So as a pro-European let me say: go Nigel, go The Know. You’re off to a bad start when you fight amongst yourselves.