Coalition Colours

Today marks the launch of Grassroots Out (shortened to GO!), a new, non-aligned “third force” in the splintering landscape of pre-referendum euroscepticism.

According to Peter Bone, it’s not intended to bid for official designation as the ‘Leave’ campaign but to bring together anti-EU activists at a constituency level for things like canvassing.

Its launch was heralded by a piece in the Daily Telegraph sporting a triple byline: Nigel Farage, Kate Hoey, a Labour MP, and Tom Pursglove, a newly-elected Tory MP.

Liam Fox, who ‘Eurosceptic sources’ believe is trying to tempt Theresa May into leading the Leave campaign, will also be in attendance.

Scanning their Twitter feed this morning, it was full of pictures of a cross-party canvassing session spearheaded by Farage, Bone and Pursglove.

(There are also a lot of graphics suggesting close cooperation with the campaign, which suggests it might not be quite so equidistant as initially suggested. This could have a direct impact on the Electoral Commission’s assessment of which of the two rival ‘Out’ groups gets official status.)

Close cooperation between Conservative MPs and Farage will also annoy many Tories: not just Europhiles in Number Ten, who wish the whole thing would go away, but possibly eurosceptics too.

Many will, after all, be working with Vote Leave. Some will judge that the UKIP-fronted, migration-focused campaign offered by is not only unrepresentative of their reasons for opposing EU membership but actively makes the referendum harder to win.

Some will judge that close association with UKIP could set back Tory progress with new Britons and in places like London, where the party continues to under-perform electorally.

Yet one the ‘Remain’ campaign really gets going, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for both wings of the Party to greatly irritate each other.

After all, not only will many prominent Conservative politicians – including most of the Cabinet – be campaigning to stay in the EU, but they’ll be doing so alongside politicians from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

It will be very easy, especially if the referendum is close and nerves are stretched thin, for each side to read some sort of betrayal into the actions of the other and leave the Party plagued by deep-seated resentments.

MPs from the Class of 2015 have spotted the danger, and nearly all have apparently signed a letter - apparently the brainchild of Will Quince, Victoria Prentice, and James Cleverly – warning the Party not to “slide back into the dark days of the 1990s”.

Europe is an issue many Tories care deeply about, and passions will doubtless run high during the campaign. Seeing members of our party on the other side from themselves, and forgiving them for being there, is something all Conservatives must get used to.

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