terça-feira, 21 de junho de 2016
Boris Johnson makes final pitch for British ‘Independence Day’
Boris Johnson makes final pitch for British ‘Independence Day’
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan lead fightback in Brexit ‘Great Debate.’
By TOM MCTAGUE AND ALEX SPENCE 6/22/16, 12:28 AM CET Updated 6/22/16, 5:47 AM CET
LONDON — Boris Johnson cannot be accused of missing an opportunity.
“If we vote leave and take back control,” he bellowed, closing Tuesday night’s final TV debate of the campaign, “this Thursday can be our country’s independence day.”
Expect the phrase to be plastered all over the papers Wednesday, the final day of campaigning before the country goes to the polls.
Johnson’s appeal certainly got at least half the crowd out of their seats at Wembley Arena, the venue for the two hour “Great Debate” which just about managed to rise to the occasion.
Brexit supporters packed into the hall could be seen punching the air in delight as the cameras panned over the audience.
But was it too much? Johnson’s closing remarks may have appealed to the Brexit base, but those worrying about the economic hit of leaving are unlikely to have been moved by the call to “believe in Britain.” That, at least, is Downing Street’s great hope.
Throughout the night, the Remain campaign did an effective, and at times passionate, job taking on the Outers by exposing the risks of voting to leave the European Union.
Ruth Davidson, the Tories’ bright hope who leads the party in Scotland, was front of the charge, taking on her colleagues Johnson and Andrea Leadsom. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, was given the task of convincing working class voters to back the EU, despite their concerns over immigration.
Yet Remain’s choices to front their campaign Tuesday belied a weakness. It was, at its heart, a core vote strategy. They now desperately need London and Scotland to vote to stay — and heavily. Frances O’Grady, the leader of the Trades Union Congress, made up the panel in a bid to reach out to ordinary workers.
After two hours of back and forth over well-trodden ground, Britain’s army of undecided voters could be forgiven for emerging none the wiser.
In truth, that may not be a bad result for David Cameron. If in doubt, the status quo may prevail. But no one in Number 10 would bet on it at the moment.
Here are five takeaways from a night which may have swung Britain’s future — and that of the EU:
1. Sadiq versus Boris: A vision of the future?
It was the battle of the London mayors, past and present, who both have an eye on greater things.
Sadiq Khan, the pocket rocket Londoner with the keys to City Hall, used the occasion to relentlessly target his predecessor.
Again and again, Khan went after Johnson for his alleged EU flip-flopping.
Jumping in early on, the former Tooting MP brought up his predecessor’s ex-economic adviser Patrick Minford, who has warned against leaving the EU. Why didn’t he listen to the experts, Khan demanded?
He wasn’t done targeting Johnson. Later, he quoted him directly telling a radio station there was no chance of Turkey joining the EU. “Boris, why have you suddenly changed your mind?”
“Let’s deal with this big fat lie once and for all,” Khan said. “You are using the prospect of Turkey joining as a ruse to scare people.”
Later, the London mayor attacked Johnson for the Brexit campaign’s focus on immigration and accused him of taking down the country.“You should know better,” he said.
It was a robust performance on a national stage for Khan that will do nothing to dampen talk of a future leadership bid. But Johnson held his own throughout the exchanges, at one point shouting back:“Oh rubbish Sadiq.”
It could’ve been Prime Minister’s Questions. One day it might be.
2. Labour voters hold the key
With 24 hours to go, the key battleground is clear: wavering Labour voters.
When each side was given the chance to put forward an opening speaker, both chose Labour. First up was Gisela Stuart, the Bavarian-born MP who has become a star of the Brexit campaign.
She paid tribute to the EU’s initial dreams, but said it had “turned into a nightmare,” attacking the unemployment crisis in Greece and Spain.
Take back control, she said, in a taste of things to come. “You will decide who makes decisions about the future of this country.”
Khan was next up, for Remain. It is the “most important decision of a generation,” he said, echoing David Cameron earlier in the day. “If we’re out, we’re out,” he added, just as the prime minister had warned.
Labour members may scratch their heads over why Jeremy Corbyn refuses to share a platform with the PM, but their London mayor is happy to quote him directly.
Remain’s decision to field the TUC leader Frances O’Grady was also clearly aimed at wavering working class workers. Brits would be £38 a week worse off outside the EU, she claimed. Rights were under threat, the Tories couldn’t be trusted. She looked emotional throughout, but may prove an effective campaigner for voters looking for voices outside Westminster party politics.
She also managed to land a major blow on immigration, demanding to know if the promised numbers would fall outside the EU. “It’s a con,” she shouted. “We don’t want a slogan, it’s a con.” It was effective hit.
3. Raise the Ruth
Ruth Davidson, a 37-year-old former BBC journalist and soldier, was a rising star in the Conservative party after a better-than-expected result in the recent Scottish elections — and her stock will soar after Tuesday’s performance.
Undaunted at the prospect of arguing opposite the potential next Conservative leader (Johnson), she was lively, forceful, and sharp-witted. She didn’t swing as ferociously at Johnson as Khan did, but Davidson’s best attack lines may win over more floating voters. “You don’t fund schools and hospitals, and you don’t control immigration, by crashing the economy, and that’s what leaving the EU would do,” she argued. And later: “They’ve got a poster in this campaign, got a slogan in this campaign, but they don’t have a plan.”
Delivering the closing statement, she said: I know the EU isn’t perfect, but the benefits far outweigh any costs. And the Britain that I know, the Britain that I love, works with its friends and neighbors, it doesn’t walk away from them.”
After the debate, some Tories jokingly wondered whether Davidson could become their next leader. Not yet, but don’t count it out some day.
4. Project Hate
Throughout the campaign, the Leave camp has undermined the Remain side’s strongest arguments, on the economy, by dismissing the warnings as “scaremongering” — as “Project Fear” — while at the same time making their own dark warnings about the risks of free movement of people.
With a long section of Tuesday’s debate allocated to arguing about immigration, the Remainers belatedly tried to turn their weakest argument around, casting Leave’s preoccupation with immigration as narrow and isolationist.
Khan went even further, firing one of the night’s most quotable zingers at Johnson: “You might start off with platitudes about how wonderful immigration is, but your campaign has been not been project fear, it has been project hate as far as immigration is concerned.”
5. Spare us the soundbites
By now, the slogans and talking points on both sides are tediously familiar. Project Fear. Stronger, safer, better in. A leap in the dark. The Leave side’s “take back control” had been one of the most effective, but was trotted out so many times on Tuesday night that it started to seem glib and robotic. At one point, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom was booed after using it one too many times.
Tom McTague and Alex Spence