quarta-feira, 8 de junho de 2016

5 takeaways from Cameron and Farage’s TV Brexit debate / Confessions of David Cameron

Confessions of David Cameron
Dear Diary, I made some big mistakes in the EU referendum campaign.


An extract from “The diaries of David Cameron” (2021), published by Penguin, 435 pages, £35
Saturday June 23, 2018 — No.10 Downing Street

To think it was two years ago today since the EU referendum!

I never thought I’d say this, but I almost wish I’d lost by 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent, rather than won by that amount. The avalanche of criticism I’ve had over the last two years, and the nightmare that the 6.4 percent majority has engendered, has completely taken the sheen off what until then had been a pretty successful premiership.

In retrospect my mistake was to have treated my fellow Tories in the same harsh way that I’d treated the Liberal Democrats during the constitutional referendum in May 2011 and Scottish nationalists during the independence referendum of September 2014. When I said it was “immoral” to vote for Brexit, I didn’t realize that I was profoundly offending many patriotic Conservatives for whom morality matters. And when I said that World War III might break out as a result of Britain leaving the EU, I compounded the sin by insulting their intelligence, too.

Of course there was going to be a backlash after all that, but I never guessed that it was going to blight the rest of my premiership.

I wish I hadn’t scared the living daylights out of the British people.
Similarly, I made a mistake — though one I’d only admit to Samantha and this diary — in skewing the contest so heavily against the Vote Leave camp, thereby allowing them to complain afterwards that the whole thing was pretty much rigged. To have spent £9 million on propaganda leaflets telling people what very nearly half of them didn’t agree with — and even more didn’t want taxpayers’ cash spent on — might have been constitutionally correct but now looks rather dodgy. The Treasury bringing out its anti-Brexit report, unsupported by any convincing documentation, only days before the official “purdah” period began also caused resentment.

As for Christine Lagarde’s anti-Brexit report being published just days before the vote, when the International Monetary Fund is in part funded by the British government, that too was constitutionally acceptable but as it turned out politically stupid. She had already stated that “credible forecasts” were predicting Brexit would cost Britain 10 percent of GDP, so anything more was sheer overkill. (The fact that neither the Great Depression nor World War I cost Britain that much was fortunately missed by our historically-illiterate electorate.)

I now see that with the entire Establishment behind me, I frankly overdid the aggression, but boy have I been made to pay for it over the past two years.

David Cameron speaks at a campaign event for Britain Stronger In Europe| Dylan Martinez/ AFP via Getty Images
Once I’d got the BBC and ITV, the City, the OECD, the Civil Service, the Guardian, the leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Green parties, the World Bank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Presidents Obama and Hollande, all the most deracinated CEOs and probably the U.N. and the Pope all in the anti-Brexit camp, I now realize I ought to have turned down the rhetoric if I wanted a smooth ride for the rest of my premiership. Parliamentary mathematics being what it is, I couldn’t appease all the more recalcitrant Brexiteers in my government reshuffle, and so rafts of legislation have been voted down in the Commons ever since.

* * *

I assumed that with a bearded Marxist-Leninist leader of the opposition who calls Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends,” I’d get a free ride, however much I lacerated my party during the referendum campaign. After I gave Michael [Gove] his old job back as Lord Chancellor and justice minister, and found a cabinet place for Boris [Johnson], I’d hoped to be able to buy peace on the backbenches for long enough to hand over to George [Osborne]. But here we are two years later, with a still split party, an election looming, and George understandably checking his watch every time he sees me, while Theresa [May] positively strums her fingers on the table at every cabinet meeting.

With a parliamentary majority of 21, I recognize now that it’s too late, a prime minister simply cannot take his party — the majority of whom supported Brexit — for granted without expecting two years of guerrilla actions by his backbenchers. I only wish that, say, two weeks before the referendum I’d stated that it was perfectly patriotic — not “immoral” — for my fellow Conservatives to vote for British independence.

I also ought to have stamped on the Remain campaign’s dog-whistle attack on Vote Leave as closet racists. It’s perfectly reasonable for a nation to decide who comes to live in it, and when I promised that net immigration would be cut to “tens of thousands” and then it jumped to one-third of a million, it wasn’t racist for my opponents to say so.

I attacked Vote Leave for concentrating on immigration rather than the “far more important” issue of the economy, but now I see that economies are naturally cyclical and can recover in a few years, whereas the demographic makeup of a country isn’t and can’t. If anything, immigration is more important than the economy.

I wish I hadn’t scared the living daylights out of the British people, but fought the campaign on a more positive and uplifting vision of our relationship with Europe. Of course it’s not my only regret; why on earth did I ever call The Donald’s policies “stupid, divisive and wrong?” But how was I to know that he’d win the [Republican] nomination, let alone the presidency? (The fact that he is indeed stupid, divisive and wrong doesn’t excuse my risking the Special Relationship for a soundbite.)

I could have been a greater prime minister than Harold Macmillan, but the way my premiership is now petering out in gridlock and discord, I fear I’m going to be seen as just another Ted Heath, Gordon Brown or John Major, one of history’s eminently forgettable PMs.

I wish I’d said in the last three weeks of the EU referendum campaign that my opponents were honorable people and their cause was not “immoral.” If only I could turn back time.

Andrew Roberts is the Lehrman Institute Distinguished Fellow at the New-York Historical Society

5 takeaways from Cameron and Farage’s TV Brexit debate
A strong showing from the prime minister, and UKIP leader has no cause to be downbeat either.


LONDON — We’ll be a bigger, greater Britain by staying in the European Union — and “little England” if we leave it. That was David Cameron’s appeal to British TV viewers Tuesday night in his second live appearance of the EU referendum campaign.

After a surprisingly antagonistic reception from the audience on Sky News last week, the prime minister was again met with hard questions from voters in an hour-long program on ITV. Taking questions for 25 minutes, Cameron emphasized his central argument: that a Brexit vote will damage the economy.

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, making the case for leaving, was also grilled by the studio audience, although the two men did not go head-to-head.

Here are 5 takeaways from the debate:

1. On balance, a good night for Remain

Make no mistake, the Remain campaign will be more than satisfied with the prime minister’s performance Tuesday.

While Cameron did not come close to landing a knockout blow, he successfully jabbed away at the Leave campaign’s weak spots on economic uncertainty while avoiding taking any major blows himself.

Cameron was also able to push the patriotic case against Brexit much harder than before. He said: “If you love this country, you don’t damage the economy, you don’t isolate it.”

He also raised the prospect of another Scottish independence vote, saying: “I do worry about a second Scottish referendum by voting to leave.”

The thought of a third referendum in three years may be enough for anyone to vote against Brexit.

But the bigger picture is that Cameron picked this fight. He was more than happy going head to head with the UKIP leader. In the end, Number 10 believes Farage is too divisive to win over the Middle England voters who could swing the result.

2. TV Brexit battle hots up … in terms of viewing figures at least

Cameron’s appearance on Sky News last week was livelier — and, frankly, made for much better television. Julie Etchingham was a light touch as moderator compared to Sky News’ Faisal Islam, the audience was less confrontational, and the 25-minute time slot given to each politician felt slightly rushed.

But while the ITV broadcast didn’t have the same sizzle, it will have been watched by many more people. ITV is the U.K.’s second most-watched TV channel after BBC One. Up against relatively weak competition on other networks in the 9 p.m. slot, the Cameron-Farage ‘debate’ will have drawn an audience of several million.

For some of them, it will have been the first time they had seen the prime minister making the case for Britain remaining in the EU. Cameron has one other chance to make his case to a big live TV audience, when he appears in a Q&A on BBC One on June 19, the Sunday before the vote.

3. Divisive Farage plays into Remain’s hands?

In facing off against Farage, Cameron was able to frame the choice as one between UKIP’s “little England” and the “Great Britain” of everybody else.

While Farage performed perfectly admirably, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that having him make the Brexit case was a bonus for Remain. Regardless of his popularity among some, the UKIP leader is a divisive figure in British politics.

Farage was pressed on a number of occasions to reassure voters that a vote to leave would not discriminate against ethnic minority Brits.

While he insisted, clumsily, that Brexit would be “better for black people,” he appeared unable to shake the stigma that Brexit was at its core anti-immigrant.

However much the UKIP leader may appeal to a large proportion of the population, Number 10 will be confident that it will not be enough to convince the majority needed for Brexit.

4. UKIP will be happy — but what about Labour?

If Cameron will be happy with his performance, Farage has no reason to be downbeat either.

The UKIP leader and MEP put in a decent shift for the Brexit campaign, landing a number of patriotic blows against Brussels condescension.

The longer term impact of Tuesday’s debate may be a cementing of UKIP’s support, while Labour was — once again — absent from the debate.

Farage won the biggest laugh of the night early on with a jibe at his friend Jean-Claude Juncker. In response to a question about the European Commission president’s warning that Britain will not get favorable treatment if it leaves, Farage replied: “We’re British. We’re better than that… We’re not going to be bullied by anybody, let alone, charming as he may be, Jean-Claude Juncker.”

He also managed to turn politics on its head by making the left-wing case against immigration by insisting there was more to life than economic growth and that other considerations should be taken into account when weighing up the benefits of border controls.

“It’s wrong, wrong, wrong for average decent families in this country to suffer a 10 percent fall in living standards,” Farage said to applause.

Immigration is Remain’s achilles heel and much as Cameron tried, he has not yet found an answer to the UKP leader’s challenge. All the prime minister could say was: “It is a challenge, but I don’t think it’s a challenge we should meet by damaging our economy.”

He may need a better line by June 23.

5. This was never Vote Leave’s night

Vote Leave weren’t really involved in this ‘debate.’ The officially-designated Leave campaign wanted one of its figureheads, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, to appear and were furious when ITV chose Farage instead.

Worried that the UKIP leader might alienate floating voters, they accused ITV and Number 10 of colluding in a “stitch up” designed to favor the Remain camp.

With that in mind, Vote Leave would’ve been satisfied if Farage didn’t say anything to damage the cause. He didn’t. The Leavers will now look to another program on ITV on Thursday night in which they will participate. Senior figures from both sides will go head-to-head in the first conventional debate of the live referendum programs so far.

Johnson is leading a strong line-up for the Leavers, with the energy minister Andrea Leadsom and Labour’s Gisela Stuart. On the other side are the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, the Conservative energy secretary Amber Rudd, and Labour’s Angela Eagle.

The prime minister will be absent, but it’s likely to be better viewing.

Alex Spence and Tom McTague

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