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Vote Leave: Big political donors backing EU 'out' campaign bid

Published 09/10/2015

Author Frederick Forsyth is among the supporters of a new cross-party group bidding to become the official
Author Frederick Forsyth is among the supporters of a new cross-party group bidding to become the official "out" campaign

A new cross-party group is bidding to become the official "out" campaign in the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Q: Who are they?

A: Vote Leave boasts a cast of wealthy business backers, MPs from the Conservatives, Labour and Ukip, and other prominent figures including the author Frederick Forsyth. Its co-treasurers are three of the biggest political donors in the country - ex-Tory treasurer and banker Peter Cruddas, Labour donor and mail-order millionaire John Mills and spread betting tycoon Stuart Wheeler, who was a major donor to the Conservatives before becoming Ukip treasurer.

It is being run by Matthew Elliott, who founded the Taxpayers' Alliance campaign group and organised the successful No2AV campaign in the referendum on reform of the voting system for Westminster elections, and Dominic Cummings, a former special adviser to Michael Gove.

Q: Why is it so important to be the official "out" campaign?

A: The Electoral Commission - the official elections watchdog - must designate one official "out" campaign and one official "in" campaign for the referendum. While other registered groups will be free to campaign, the two official campaigns will enjoy significant advantages including significantly higher spending limits, free mail shots, campaign broadcasts and public funding of up to £600,000.

A: Does Vote Leave have any rivals for the "out" designation?

Q: Ukip backer Arron Banks last month launched the Leave EU campaign with the support of the party's leader Nigel Farage. However Ukip's only MP, Douglas Carswell, has come out in favour of Vote Leave, which led to a very public falling out at the party's annual conference last month in Doncaster.

Q: So how do the two camps stack up?

A: Vote Leave supporters believe they are the ones with the broad political support and campaigning nous - not to mention the financial muscle - to swing the country in favour of "Brexit". Leave EU however say their rivals are too Westminster-orientated and will struggle to reach out to voters turned off by "politics as usual" in the way that their campaign can.

Q: What about the "in" campaign?

A: A pro-EU group involving Lord Mandelson and Will Straw, son of former foreign secretary Jack Straw who stood unsuccessfully for Labour at the general election in May, is reported to be planning to launch in the coming days in the hope of winning the official "in" designation. Lord Sainsbury of Turville - one of Labour's biggest donors - is said to head the list of financial backers.

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