Robin Birley, a former Conservative Party donor and stepson of the revered Eurosceptic Sir James Goldsmith has said that he believes Nigel Farage is the right man to lead the ‘out’ campaign if Britain has a referendum on EU membership.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Birley, who financed David Davis’s campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, said that despite calls from UKIP colleagues and others from across the eurosceptic movement, UKIP leader Nigel Farage “is the only person with the national profile, the powers of persuasion and the star quality to lead the fight for the ‘Outers’”.
Rows erupted within UKIP last week, as party figures went head to head over Mr Farage’s future in the party. The driving factor behind the arguments is believed to be UKIP MP Douglas Carswell’s belief that Mr Farage shouldn’t be at the helm of the out campaign. He has publicly stated that the public face of the campaign should be someone from the business world.
But Mr Birley shot back today, claiming that not only should Mr Farage be the head of the ‘Outers’ — but that it was indeed his party, UKIP, which helped the Conservative Party cruise to victory on May 7th.
Consider these facts: in Bolton West, the Conservatives gained the seat from Labour with a margin of 801 votes, with UKIP on 7428. In Morley and Outwood, Ed Balls was ousted by 378 votes, a wonderful moment for the Tories and the political Right. That would not have happened, had UKIP not scored almost 8000 votes. In both cases, the local analysis is quite clear: those UKIP votes were overwhelmingly taken from Labour, not the Conservatives.
The latest public intervention from private members’ club owner Birley is sure to rattle the cages of eurosceptics such as Mr Carswell and his close Tory MEP friend Daniel Hannan, who are said to have been working to get Mr Farage to take a back seat during the campaign.
Without Farage’s quixotic, near unique ability to take on vested interest, I fear that the ‘No’ campaign will struggle, and that the prize that so many of us have fought for over decades will be lost in a matter of a year or so.
Mr Birley is well respected in both UKIP and the Conservative Party, as he is the stepson of the founder of the now defunct Referendum Party, Sir James Goldsmith, who put the idea of an EU referendum on the British political agenda.