quinta-feira, 9 de junho de 2016
5 takeaways from EU referendum debate / TV debate saw Brexit win the night and Boris take the flak.
5 takeaways from EU referendum debate
TV debate saw Brexit win the night and Boris take the flak.
By ALEX SPENCE AND TOM MCTAGUE 6/10/16, 1:13 AM CET
LONDON — It will have been an anxious Thursday night for David Cameron.
After making the case for Britain’s membership in the European Union to about 4 million viewers on ITV on Tuesday night, the prime minister was a spectator this time as a trio of senior female politicians took to the stage for Remain in the latest TV debate.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, Labour’s Angela Eagle and Tory energy secretary Amber Rudd came out swinging for the Remain side, but their opponents from the Leave camp — energy minister Andrea Leadsom, Labour MP Gisela Stuart, and Boris Johnson — gave as good as they got.
One of a succession of big TV events planned before the June 23 vote, the ITV broadcast was the first to use a conventional debate format, with politicians from both sides arguing directly with each other. It was long and hot-tempered, and left the referendum outcome looking harder than ever to call. Here are 5 takeaways:
1. Brexit buoyed
This was a clear win for Leave. Expect a blizzard of action from Downing Street in the coming days as they try to get back on the front foot.
In the Brexit corner, Johnson, Leadsom and Stuart seemed well-prepared, unified and composed. They appeared to grow in confidence as the debate wore on, repeatedly urging voters to “take back control” and ignore the government’s “miserable” warnings about the dangers of leaving.
Immigration dominated the early exchanges, setting the tone for the rest of the debate and leaving the Inners on the back foot.
Led by the combative Tory minister Rudd, the three Remainers repeatedly attacked Johnson and the Brexit campaign for spreading “lies,” “falsehoods” and “pure fantasy,” but failed to land a serious blow on the economy — their strongest line of attack.
Sturgeon again proved to be the strongest left-wing voice in British politics, but it’s unclear how much influence she has south of the border. Cameron will need to come out all guns blazing in the remaining debates to undo some of the damage.
2. In the battle of the slogans, Leave wins with “Take back control”
The Conservative Party won the last general election by relentlessly pursuing a single campaign message: that Labour could not be trusted with the economy. The Remain campaign was supposed to be following the script this time round, but it appears to be the Brexit camp which has alighted on the stronger message: taking back control.
Again and again, the three Outers repeated the catch-all slogan, whether it was debating the economy, immigration or even, curiously, endangered wildlife.
Labour’s Stuart, the quietly spoken grandmother, originally from Germany, was according to some early polls the star of the night. She calmly, effectively made the case for Britain leaving, urging voters to believe in themselves. The Bavarian Blairite, who only moved to the U.K. in the 1970s, said: “I’m an immigrant. I believe in this country and I wouldn’t dream of talking it down.” It was a potent message — the European telling the British native there’s nothing to fear outside the bloc.
3. The rise of Rudd
Rudd, the Conservative energy secretary, was forceful and passionate on the Remain side, overshadowing the better-known, more experienced Sturgeon.
A close ally of Chancellor George Osborne, Rudd’s profile has been growing recently, as one of the more media-friendly cabinet ministers making the case for Britain staying in. Her stock will rise after Thursday night. Some viewers will have been turned off by her attacks on Johnson, but in the battle of potential Tory leaders, it was Rudd that seemed more prime ministerial. “This could be the making of Rudd,” Tom Bradby, presenter of ITV’s 10 o’clock news bulletin, tweeted.
4. Boris takes a battering
In his first live, prime-time TV performance of the referendum campaign, Johnson was a marked man. Vote Leave’s most recognizable figure was attacked directly and repeatedly by the Remainers. “I fear the only number Boris is interested in is the number 10,” his cabinet colleague Rudd said early on, and other scripted jibes about Johnson’s leadership ambitions soon followed.
Eagle: “Boris, you don’t seem to care about the millions of jobs that will be at risk if we leave the EU. You only seem to care about one job.”
Sturgeon: “He’s not interested in your job or anybody else’s job, he’s only interested in David Cameron’s job.”
Rudd again: “He’s the life and soul of the party, but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening.”
The taunts drew laughter from some in the audience, cheers from the political journalists — but didn’t get a rise from Johnson himself. “I missed the insult,” he said at one point, brushing off a barb from Eagle.
The former mayor of London was unusually subdued by his standards. He stuck to the script. “Take back control of our democracy,” he argued. “That is fundamentally what this is all about.”
5. Is Brexit a right-wing plot?
Remain lost the debate, but there was one area of attack that may have landed with some voters.
Not on the economy — Brexit will make us all poorer was the message voters were supposed to come away with from Thursday night’s debate but didn’t. Instead, it was the prospect of Brexit strengthening the right flank of the Conservative Party — the likes of Michael Gove and Johnson — that seemed to be Remain’s strongest point of the night.
It was an odd argument for a fellow Tory to make, but Rudd did. Workers’ rights were “on the ballot paper,” she said, and would be under threat in the “little England” vision of the Brexiteers. Public services, including the NHS, would also be under threat if they had more power.
Sturgeon and Eagle agreed. “Whatever you do, do not trust a word Boris Johnson says on the NHS,” Sturgeon said.
Alex Spence and Tom McTague