quarta-feira, 8 de junho de 2016
5 takeaways from Cameron and Farage’s TV Brexit debate / Confessions of David Cameron
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.
By ALEX SPENCE AND TOM MCTAGUE 6/8/16, 12:57 AM CET
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