James Forsyth

What kind of Out campaign will David Cameron be faced with?

What kind of Out campaign will David Cameron be faced with?
Text settings

If all goes according to David Cameron’s plan, then the EU referendum campaign will be under way very shortly. Cameron himself will be the main figure on the In side of the argument. The Home Secretary Theresa May will also throw herself into the campaign, as Rachel Sylvester wrote this week. Another face of the effort to keep Britain in the EU will be Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, who is running the Labour IN campaign.

The Remain side of the argument will, as the above list shows, be able to call upon a formidable amount of political firepower. But what is not yet clear is what kind of Out campaign it will face. Will it be up against a campaign dominated by Nigel Farage, the bombastic Ukip donor Arron Banks, Philip Hollobone in his Union Jack jacket and Peter Bone in his Grassroots Out tie? Or, will it be facing an Out campaign including Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart?

It doesn’t take long to work out which group Cameron would rather take on: Number 10 would love to be able to portray the Outers as cranks and gadflies. This is why it is such a big deal which Out campaign gets the official Electoral Commission designation. If it is the GO movement —which includes both Grassroots Out (part-founded by Peter Bone) and Leave.EU (largely funded by Arron Banks)—then the In campaign will be in clover. It will relish the effect that Farage, Bone and Hollobone will have on swing voters. But if Vote Leave—the group run by Matthew Elliott (who ran the successful anti-AV campaign) and backed by Conservatives for Britain—gets the designation, then the contest will be far more evenly balanced.