13 April 2016

Nigel Farage, Arron Banks, it’s over…


Can you think of anything more likely to fatally damage the cause of the Leave side in the UK’s EU referendum than a court case that delays the vote until October? The British have already had enough of the EU referendum and there are still ten weeks of campaigning left. Indeed, voters have had enough and the campaign hasn’t really got going. The final six weeks or so in the run-up to June 23rd will be absolutely bonkers. I don’t think people have grasped yet how high energy and infuriating it is all going to be.

Yet the Continuity Eurosceptics, the real Outers, in the upper echelons of UKIP, are preparing to make it go on even longer, pushing a vote back to October. It is reported that Arron Banks – the brains behind Leave.EU and GO! and a man used to getting his own way – is consulting lawyers about having the decision to award the official designation to the rival Vote Leave campaign subjected to judicial review. The official campaign gets a spending limit of £7m and access to TV spots (which are worth very little these days, to be honest). More importantly they will be treated for broadcast and newspaper purposes as the real deal, the cross-party effort that are gone to first.

For moderate leavers, Farage and Banks winning the designation would have been a catastrophe. I know plenty of Outers who would have voted In just not to be associated with such a campaign.

Still, Banks seems determined to press on. To which the poor British voter can only say: please, stop it. Don’t ruin our summer by making the vote happen in October. We can’t take it.

The truth is that Banks and Farage have run an extraordinary, energetic, insurgent effort and almost won the designation battle. Ignore all those saying that the designation battle was never close. Go back a few months and Vote Leave was in real trouble, with Labour people (and others) walking out following complaints about how the effort was being run. The Vote Leave leadership had to fight back and were helped enormously by the declarations of Tory cabinet ministers and Boris. Only since then has the balance tipped back decisively.

But it is over now. Nigel, Arron, take the evening off. Hell, take the year off. To paraphrase Mick Jagger: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you can go to the pub, have a pint, accept that it’s not all about you and move on.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.