Slipped disc gives the 'no' campaign a shaky start

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The campaign opposing the EU constitution got off to a less than impressive start yesterday. Ian Davidson, the Labour MP leading it, wasunder heavy sedation at home in Scotland after slipping a disc bending over a dishwasher on Father's Day.

Also missing from a meeting at Westminster of the new Labour group of MPs, who will spearhead the campaign, was Kate Hoey, a former sports minister, who was attending a rugby tournament in her inner London seat. It also clashed with England's European Cup match, forcing organisers to postpone the promised launch party.

But despite its uncertain start, the "no" campaign was buoyant. Supporters say it is better funded and better organised than the opposition.

Many of the team from Business for Sterling will be drafted into the campaign. Most of the funding will come from big Conservative backers, including Lord Kalms, the head of Dixons; Michael Spencer, and Stuart Wheeler.

The environmental campaigner Zac Goldsmith, whose late father, Lord Goldsmith, funded the anti-European Referendum Party, is also expected to be a donor. Others on the left who oppose the constitution include Frank Field, the former minister, and many members of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs.

However, one member of the Campaign Group said: "We will be keeping our heads down. The 'no' campaign doesn't want it to be associated with the usual suspects, who opposed top-up fees and voted against foundation hospitals."

Ms Hoey said last night she resented the suggestion that she was in the "no" camp because she was a bitter ex-minister. "I lost my job with John Smith as a shadow minister because I voted against Maastricht. I refused to abstain. I have not changed my view," she said.

Leaders of the Labour "no" camp said they had at least 40 supporters but there were up to 60 more Labour MPs who were sympathetic, including some ministers. They said there were also one or two Liberal Democrat MPs wanting to campaign for a "no" vote.