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5 November 2015updated 06 Nov 2015 10:41am

Who’s who in the Europe debate

Who's in and who's out for the Europe referendum?

By New Statesman


Arron Banks

Last October it was announced that the insurance tycoon and former Tory donor would be giving £100,000 to Ukip. When William Hague reacted to the news by saying, “I’ve never heard of him,” Banks was so incensed that he upped his donation to £1m.

Now Banks is funding Leave.EU, one of two groups vying for the Electoral Commission’s designation as the official campaign for the Out side (its opposition is the cross-party group run by Matthew Elliott, above). Banks intends to focus heavily on the free movement of people if Leave.EU triumphs. “Immigration will be the number one [issue],” he has said. Given his close relationship with Nigel Farage, he will want the Ukip leader to be part of Leave.Eu. 

Jenny Jones

The first Green peer, a London Assembly member who joined the Lords in 2013, Jones supports the Vote Leave campaign. She believes the EU stands for “neoliberalism, austerity and capital against popular will”. This is at odds with the Greens’ only MP, Caroline Lucas, who is on the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign board. It also strays from the Green party line, known as “Three Yeses”: “yes to a referendum, yes to major EU reform and yes to staying in a reformed Europe”.

Matthew Elliot

Remember the “She needs a new cardiac facility, not a new voting system” advert used in the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum? Matthew Elliott was the campaign director for the organisation, NOtoAV, which ran it. His side won with 67.9 per cent of the vote.

Elliott is now the chief executive of Business for Britain, a Eurosceptic lobbying group, and is running Vote Leave’s campaign, which brings together Labour and Tory Eurosceptics, alongside figures from business. Although only 37, his record is formidable: he is the founder and former chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Big Brother Watch.

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Nigel Farage

Among moderate Eurosceptics, there is already talk of a “Nigel problem”. The Ukip leader is electoral Marmite: for everyone who loves his plain-spoken persona, there is another one turned off by the anti-immigration, sometimes xenophobic rhetoric of the “People’s Army” and its leader.

At Ukip’s autumn conference, Farage in effect gambled his future on the referendum, saying it was his primary focus for the next few years. This upset some in the party who want Ukip to build on the four million votes it won in May and mature into a broader electoral proposition. Autumn conference brought another sticky situation: after Farage declared his support for Arron Banks’s Leave.EU, his party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, backed the rival Vote Leave group. Farage now says he backs both.

Nigel Lawson

Margaret Thatcher’s longest-serving chancellor of the Exchequer has kept relatively far away from the political fray since he left the Commons in 1992, though he has quietly advised George Osborne from time to time. He has entered the game again as the leader of the Tory campaign for Brexit, Conservatives for Britain – prompting Arron Banks’s rival Leave.EU group to issue a statement calling him a “has-been” who was “leading ‘A’ [ie, not ‘the’] campaign that is run by the ‘Westminster bubble’”.

Lord Lawson, who once favoured UK membership of the doomed Exchange Rate Mechanism, will likely be the most senior Tory to call for an Out vote.


June Sarpong

The launch of Britain Stronger in Europe was generally considered to be underwhelming, but it did provide one moment of light relief. June Sarpong, once the face of Channel 4’s youth strand T4 but now a panellist on Loose Women, was announced as being responsible for young voters. The only problem, as many teens soon tweeted, was that they’d never heard of her. Still, she made a lively speech, saying Europe needed “the efficiency of the Germans, the pragmatism of the Finns, the innovation of the Swedes . . . the creativity of the Italians and, of course, the Frenchness of the French”.

Roland Rudd

One of the big challenges for both sides in the EU debate is not knowing when the referendum will be. That means that both “remain” and “leave” must not only raise the £7m they are permitted to spend on posters, adverts and so on during the “regulated period” of the campaign, but keep their offices open and their agenda in the limelight, however long it takes to reach that point. For the In campaign, it is Roland Rudd, a multimillionaire PR man and the board’s treasurer, who has the task of making sure the money keeps flowing. Rudd, like another of the campaign’s big donors, Lord Sainsbury, is a former SDP man-turned-Blairite, with close links to Peter Mandelson. His sister Amber Rudd is a Tory MP and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Stuart Rose

The former M&S chief, 66, was chosen to chair the In campaign to emphasise the practical, business-based case for membership. EU opponents were swift to note his past criticisms of the institution. In 2013, the Conservative peer signed a letter to the Times warning: “Business faces ever more burdens from Brussels and the single market in Europe has not yet been fully realised.” Pro-EU strategists contend that such scepticism gives Rose credibility with voters. Alex Salmond, however, has warned that Rose is incapable of offering “an inspiring, positive vision of the future of Europe”.

Will Straw

After failing to win election to parliament as Labour’s candidate in Rossendale and Darwen, Straw is now executive director of the In campaign. The son of the former foreign secretary Jack Straw, he was the founding editor of the blog Left Foot Forward and served as an associate director of IPPR.

He will be working alongside Ryan Coetzee, the 42-year-old South African director of strategy, previously of the Lib Dems. Coetzee has vowed not to “turn our campaign into ‘Project Fear’” – a disparaging reference to the Scottish No side.

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This article appears in the 28 Oct 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Israel: the Third Intifada?