After Neil Kinnock told me in an interview in tomorrow's New Statesman that Labour must "absolutely not" support a referendum on EU membership, Britain's leading champion of a public vote has wasted no time in retaliating.
Nigel Farage said:
That this washed up politician, who personally receives upwards of £83,000 per year in his EU pension can claim that there is no need for a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU just shows the level of disdain he feels towards the hopes and wishes of the British people.
He was rejected at the polls, and his style of arrogant rejection of choice displayed here just reminds us why. Millions of normal Labour supporters will hear of his comments with dismay. They too deserve a say.
Kinnock told me:
When the question comes up, I offer in response this question: 'why should our country be subjected to the distraction, the cost and, most of all, the gigantic risks that come with the referendum, simply because the leader of the Conservative Party can’t run his party?'
He [David Cameron] is suffering the fate of all appeasers, which is to be eaten by the people he’s trying to appease. What he does inside his own party is his business but he really hasn’t got the right to inflict that on the future of our country.
Investor after investor, company after company, of all sizes, say we will lack investment, we will lack decisions to locate, or to deepen commitment in the UK, we will lack customers if this great breach was to take place. The dangers attendant upon having the referendum in those conditions, where there is no constitutional justification whatsoever, are massive.
It's worth noting that it's in Farage's interests for Labour (and the Lib Dems) to support an EU referendum. If both parties pledge to hold a vote, it will deprive the Tories of one of their main attack lines against UKIP - that the only way to guarantee a referendum is to vote Conservative in 2015.