Unless you've been living under a rock recently, you should be aware that one of the most important referendums that will dictate the future of our country is set to take place next month. You will also be aware that the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition are both leading the IN campaign, whilst UKIP leader Nigel Farage is doing all he can to propel the OUT campaign. However, in reality, Farage may in fact be doing irreparable damage to the OUT campaign and consequently may be giving the IN campaign the upper hand.
Over the past couple of months, the EU referendum has spurred on heated discussions and divided otherwise cohesive parties. Whilst the PM may be supporting the IN campaign, his former London mayor and Bullingdon club buddy is fervently in support of the OUT campaign, as is half of his party. On the other side of the chamber, Corbyn, who was bureaucratically pushed into supporting the IN campaign has left a number of OUT labour campaigners feeling abandoned. Indeed, it is clear that party politics do not necessarily determine how its members will vote on June 23rd.
The extent to which our nation is split on the topic is fascinating. Despite sharing similarities in background, education, employment or even political bias with a dear friend, your stance on Britain's involvement in the EU can still be at polar opposites. To this extent, it is fascinating to hear any kind of debate on the matter. Watching a Question Time episode on the EU is much like watching a fierce ping-pong final: points are aggressively exchanged between opponents, with each one-upping the other. With reputable and articulate politicians from both labour and the Tories fighting from both corners, a compelling debate is guaranteed.
Enter Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP party. In theory, Farage should be the campaign's leading politician, after all his party formed its bedrock around leaving the EU in the first place. However, his mere presence in the campaign is proving to be detrimental, mainly because Farage himself is largely unpopular and so too is his party. Despite Farage often trying to dispel racist accusations, the reality is that people still see his party as synonymous with racism. Whether or not his party politics or his members are in fact racist is a debate for another time, but it is clear that people often disregard the party as a racist one. During last year's election, the top Google search about UKIP was 'Are UKIP racist?'. For whatever reason, people have formulated this connection. The fact that Farage has gone out his way countless times to declare that his party is not racist suggests that people believe it is.
As a result, Farage and his party have developed a notoriety, which not only repels people, but also offends them. Because of this, many of Farage's speeches are dismissed by the general public, who understandably find it difficult to believe that a man who leads a 'racist' party will have anything salient to say at all. If the general public perceive him to be racist, his policies and view on life will also be perceived as equally absurd.
Here in lies the problem when Farage participates in the EU debate. The EU debate is filled with weighty arguments being flung around like monkey faeces at a zoo - when one hits you, its certainly effective. However, when Farage enters the discussion, the side that was otherwise putting up a good fight suddenly becomes heavily burdened. It would be like adding Azaelia Banks to your singing group - yes, vocally she's a great addition to the band, but her racist notoriety undoubtedly precedes her. With Banks in your band, your group won't be winning the X-Factor any time soon and with Farage being a key voice in the OUT campaign, the campaign won't be winning the debate any time soon either.
Understandably, Farage would want his party to be the face of the OUT campaign and an OUT result in June would give his party a certain degree of credence. However, when he deploys his UKIP troops to the vicious debates, he is unwillingly damaging the cause. A fair debate would be an IN tory vs an OUT tory, not an IN tory vs a nut-job xenophobic UKIP member. Whilst said UKIP member may not be a nut-job or even xenophobic, the fact that they are regarded as such means that the IN tory has already won the debate even before it has begun.
Perhaps the OUT campaign needs an OUT with UKIP sub-campaign.