As Nigel Farage stakes his claim in the EU Out campaign, will he do more harm than good?

Nigel Farage has staked his claim in the EU Out campaign (Source: Getty)

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos Mori, says Yes

Nigel Farage is a very skilled politician. Just witness Ukip’s remarkable rise after 2012. Our data shows the public thinks he has charisma, a clear vision, and he receives particularly enthusiastic ratings from his own supporters – which could be important in any referendum campaign. But there are risks.

The Out campaign will have to win over both the minority, which feels strongly about Europe and leaving the EU, but also (depending on turnout) those who think Europe is less of an issue – two groups with very different views of Farage. The flip side of the Ukip leader’s strong personality is his public image – more style than substance – and his party, which is considered extreme by the majority of Britons.

What impact would that have on the image of the Out campaign? Ukip’s rise has coincided with increasing public support for staying in the EU after the Eurozone crisis in 2011, and this is the group the Out campaign will need to win over.

Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, says No

It’s impossible to ignore that conservatism is no longer the preserve of just one political party. Ideologically, Ukip now can claim to be a conservative party, and I don’t believe that it has damaged the cause – it’s enhanced it.

Nigel Farage’s (many) critics forget that, little over a year ago, Ukip placed first in the European Parliament elections. And despite not achieving the promised “political earthquake” in May, it recorded almost 4m votes and some of the largest swings in British electoral history. To succeed, the Out campaign is going to need to span all political colours, and encompass people that disagree on almost everything other than our EU membership.

The EU referendum is not far away. If the intervening time is spent debating the membership of the Brexit supporters group, rather than the EU itself, it is doomed to fail. Farage and many others will be part of the Out campaign. It’s time to get on with it.

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