The Ukip leader said he thought the leadership role would in the end probably go to someone outside politics – such as entrepreneur James Dyson – but for the moment he appears to be positioning himself as the most prominent political opponent to the EU.
Speaking on LBC radio, he said Ukip would be “extremely active” in the no campaign, as the only Eurosceptic organisation with a “big grassroots structure on the ground”.
“The role of Ukip, the role of myself will be important. That’s not saying that I have to take the lead,” Farage said. “I would be prepared to of course. But I suspect what we will see is somebody coming from completely outside of normal politics, somebody from the world of business or entertainment that hasn’t got any political baggage at all. I think someone like that may well emerge.”
Later, at a press conference, Farage said he was currently the best placed person to be leading the no campaign given the disarray of his rivals, even while admitting: “Not everybody likes me, I accept that.”
The role of Farage in the out campaign has been the subject of much speculation, as some within his own party and many Tory Eurosceptics see him as a toxic figure who will not be able to win round more than half of the voting population to his cause.
Having failed to win a seat in parliament, Farage was the subject of an attempted coup on his leadership over the issue, when he stepped down from the role only to “unresign” four days later. One of the party’s biggest donors, Stuart Wheeler, said it was time for someone more quiet to take over the reins. Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, has previously said he would like the out campaign to be headed by a “wealth creator” such as Dyson.
Ukip’s press office last week released a statement saying: “Mr Farage has made clear, time and time again that he sees himself as ‘a’ not ‘the’ leader of the out campaign, and is calling for a broad, inclusive campaign which is cross-party, and no party.”
However, Farage himself had previously indicated to the Telegraph that he did want to lead the campaign. “We are going to take the lead, we are going to get cracking. But we will at all times invite others to come along and share the platform with us,” he said.
“We will be launching a massive series of public events and meetings all over the country starting in September. These will be public meetings. They will be live web streamed. We are going to be busy, delivering leaflets through the doors by the million. We are not prepared to stand around and wait.”
This article was written by Rowena Mason, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 17th June 2015 13.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010