Farage should be used 'sparingly' by Leave campaigners

Nigel Farage Image copyright Getty Images

UKIP leader Nigel Farage takes part alongside David Cameron in Tuesday's ITV special debate on the EU, but research from his own supporters questions his helpfulness to their cause.

Mr Farage should only be used "sparingly" when Brexit campaigners target blue-collar workers, because of his potential to alienate voters with "a divisive or reactionary tone on issues like immigration". That's according to a report produced for his own allies.

A strategic analysis commissioned by the Leave.EU movement said that campaign themes "should be delivered by someone other than Nigel Farage". It argues that some voters view Mr Farage negatively, which "hurts the message", and "the Leave campaign does not have the luxury to allow this to happen".

But it also says that Mr Farage could be deployed to "keep the pot boiling" and "at times of a specific crisis in migration, for example, to underline the negative effects of immigration on working households".


Mr Farage is well-established as a figure in British politics who provokes starkly diverse reactions, deeply inspiring many voters while equally profoundly infuriating many others.

His appearance on Tuesday night in ITV's special EU debate, on the same programme as David Cameron, has aroused controversy - mainly from the official Leave campaign who said ITV's choice of Mr Farage rather than a Conservative was an "outrage".

But what is surprising is that this analysis does not stem from Mr Farage's enemies, but from his allies. He backed the application by the Grassroots Out movement (which included Leave.EU) to be designated as the official leading Leave campaign in the referendum.

Grassroots Out included this research as part of their lengthy submission to the Electoral Commission to justify why their group (with Mr Farage playing a prominent role) should have been designated, rather than the rival Vote Leave organisation which actually succeeded. It is hard to see why it would have encouraged the Commission to pick GO.

'Closed and neurotic'

There are some other interesting features of this strategic report, which is a detailed 50-page demographic and geographic analysis of voter characteristics aimed at helping Leave.EU target the Labour vote. It says that voters in blue collar working households have "closed personality traits, which are associated with social conservatism".

It goes on: "They tend to hold dogmatic and closed positions on issues such as immigration, Europe and welfare ... They are also slightly neurotic, which leads them to emphasise the unfairness in issues such as welfare or immigration. The combination of closed and neurotic personality types means they have fairly stark and blunt views".

The report was produced by Ian Warren, an elections analyst who runs the Election Data website. He has provided expert advice for a range of political forces, including Labour at the last general election and UKIP previously.

A Grassroots Out spokesman said: "This report was about the Labour vote. The fact that Nigel Farage isn't the best person to get across to Labour voters isn't exactly shocking news. The reason why it was included in our submission is neither here nor there."

All political campaigning organisations commission this kind of strategic research to help their target their communications, but it is unusual for it to become publicly available.

The Electoral Commission redacted large sections of the applications to be chosen as the lead campaigns on each side before releasing them in April, particularly the evidence on campaigning capacity, but included this report in the published material. However, I have not seen it reported anywhere until now.

  • You can follow Martin Rosenbaum on Twitter as @rosenbaum6

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