He's not 'the' leader: Brexit campaigners bite back after Lord Lawson announcement

UKIP and another group campaigning for a UK exit from the EU have taken issue with reports that Conservative peer Lord Lawson would "lead" the Brexit campaign.

EU: In or Out? (Credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock)
EU: In or Out? (Credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock)

Former MP and Cabinet minister Lord Lawson wrote in The Times yesterday that he was about to become president of Conservatives for Britain, a Tory group seeking a UK exit from the EU at the referendum due to take place in 2016 or 2017.

The Times then wrote a separate article about Lawson headlined 'Lawson to take lead in campaign for EU exit', and several other publications have since written similarly titled stories, with the BBC's called 'Lord Lawson to lead UK EU exit group'.

Until David Cameron announces the date of the EU referendum – some expect this to take place at next week's Conservative Party Conference – there is no single official campaign on either side of the debate. Once the referendum is scheduled, the Electoral Commission will recognise one official campaign representing In, and another for Out.

The campaign group Leave.EU was quick to clarify the position and add its view, sending out a press statement yesterday saying: "The announcement that Lord Lawson is 'leading' the campaign to leave the EU is wrong. He's leading ‘a' campaign that is run by the 'Westminster bubble' from SW1."

The statement also said that its campaign included supporters from Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, UKIP and various other camps, adding: "If the Tories keep using has-beens like Lord Lawson and the other Eurosceptic rabble then that will turn off supporters. So get back in your box Nigel, and let the people support a people’s campaign, not an SW1 bubble brigade."

Speaking to PRWeek, a UKIP press officer was also quick to clarify that Lawson was merely one of several campaigners. An item also posted yesterday on the UKIP website from leader Nigel Farage welcomed the news but added a similar caution: "Whilst I welcome Lord Lawson in his new role as head of Conservatives for Britain, which will apparently be be campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, there are a few issues we must make clear.

"Whilst winning support from Westminster figures is important, this referendum cannot be won in Westminster but out across the country. That is why I have been so impressed by the Leave.EU campaign, which is signing up thousands of supporters every week, and why I and other UKIP MEPs have been going across the country holding public meetings on the Say No to EU national tour, speaking to thousands of voters."

Farage went on to say he feared Lawson was "intimately associated with the Thatcher years" meaning that he was likely to have limited appeal.

Farage himself has previously said he would not lead the Brexit campaign, although he is likely to remain a prominent figure in it.

One of the pro-EU groups appointed former journalist and Conservative Party press officer David Banks into a comms role last month.

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