Farage won't lead EU 'Out' campaign but he's not out of the picture, say public affairs experts

The UKIP leader's announcement that he does not want to spearhead the official campaign for the UK's exit from the EU still leaves room for him to make noise ahead of the referendum, public affairs consultants say - although they differ in their views of the implications of this.

Farage: avoiding a role as the figurehead for the EU 'Out' campaign
Farage: avoiding a role as the figurehead for the EU 'Out' campaign

In a flurry of broadcast interviews and social media activity yesterday, UKIP announced that it would hold an event in Westminster at noon on Friday to outline the details of its "ground campaign" and local events to support the vote for a UK exit from the EU. The press event will include a speech by Farage and questions from journalists.

Farage also told the BBC that he and his party would be happy to work with whichever campaigning organisation gains the accreditation as the official group by the Electoral Commission - The Know or Business for Britain.

A Guardian story - retweeted by the UKIP Twitter account - said Farage was "not trying to become leader" of the official campaign. As PRWeek has previously reported, the charismatic UKIP chief is seen as a divisive figure, despite his popularity in some quarters.

Gill Morris, executive chair of Connect Communications, said this was a wise decision: "Going it alone gives Farage a free reign on immigration and delivering a single message. He is playing to the crowd of voters who are out there and who agree with him on safeguarding UK borders.

She went on to say: "Therefore, I suspect his impact on the result is now likely to be far greater on the 'Out' vote and David Cameron should be afraid, very afraid."

Liam O’Keefe, a senior director at FTI Consulting, said that Farage was aware he was "too divisive in political circles to lead a campaign made up of multiple groups", but that such a campaign still risked appearing disunited. "Fragmentation and inconsistency in tone and message is going to be a constant risk for the 'Out' camp," he said.

Mark Gallagher, senior partner at Pagefield, said Farage could play a key role: "I don't think that the Brexit campaign can ignore UKIP because they've been banging the drum very successfullly for many years."

In other EU referendum developments, the Electoral Commission yesterday recommended a change in the proposed wording of the question that will appear on ballot papers, while the BBC has this morning reported that the Government will today announce "significant" changes to the purdah rules governing campaigning in the run-up to election.

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