Labour activists campaign for EU referendum

LABOUR MPs and activists will today launch an internal party campaign for an EU referendum – with a stark warning that they could lose the 2015 general election if Ed Miliband does not commit to holding a vote.

Labour for a Referendum already claims the support of 15 MPs and 150 councillors who fear David Cameron’s pledge to holding a referendum in 2017 could make the difference in marginal constituencies across the south of England.

“The electorate as a whole is more eurosceptic than the Labour party,” campaign chairman John Mills told City A.M.

“There is overwhelming public support for holding a referendum – and being willing to back a referendum is likely to pull in votes. The EU issue will become more in the front rank of things over the next few years.”

The campaign wants to convince the party leadership that a vote on EU membership would be both an astute political decision and a principled way of allowing Britons a fair say on the role of the EU.

However, Labour leader Miliband has repeatedly ruled out committing to a referendum while shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is staunchly opposed.

Labour for a Referendum hopes to win them around by building up support among activists – and especially among prospective parliamentary candidates.

The organisation is being run independently of the party and funded by supporters such as Mills, Labour’s biggest individual donor this year, who runs a successful mail-order business.

Last month Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, used his newspaper column to call on Labour to settle the issue and steal a march on the Tories by pushing for an immediate referendum.