A leading Labour Party donor with a history of supporting Eurosceptic causes has called for Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, to lead the out campaign in the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
John Mills was the national director of the campaign to withdraw from the European Economic Community (the EU’s predecessor) in 1975. He now helps fund Business for Britain, a campaign group promoting renegotiation of the UK’s membership of the EU. He is holding off his final decision on which side to back in the planned referendum until after he has seen the results of the Prime Minister’s efforts to renegotiate terms but has suggested to The Guardian that Hoey is a good candidate to lead the out team.
Mills describes Hoey, a former Minister for Sport in Tony Blair’s first government, as “a very strong, feisty figure”. He continues:
“She is respected, she is liked. She knows her own mind, she is a tough fighter, she has been around for a long while. She is a reliable cogent figure. These are very important qualities that you need in somebody who is going to lead a campaign like this.”
Although Nigel Farage will doubtless play a large role in any campaign, not least because the 3.9 million votes UKIP won at the recent general election will be needed for victory, Mills explained the strategic dangers of a campaign solely led by UKIP’s leader and the need to cast the net wider to build a cross-party Eurosceptic coalition. Noting the risk it could become polarised into a ‘UKIP v The Rest’ campaign he said: “Ukip just hasn’t got the measure of support needed to have any real of chance of winning on its own.”
Preparations for campaigns on either side of the EU debate come at a time when Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and Scottish first minister, confirmed that her 56 MPs in London will try to amend the referendum legislation such that a UK withdrawal from the EU will require approval by all four constituent parts of the UK to be valid. City AM reports that Sturgeon addressed a meeting of business leaders on the subject, saying:
“Since a referendum is now inevitable, we will work to protect Scotland’s interests in that referendum. We’ll propose a double majority meaning that exit from the EU would only be possible if all four nations agreed to that, something that would ensure that Scotland couldn’t be forced out of the EU against our will.”