The five things you need to know on Tuesday June 21, 2016…
1) BREX-FACTOR V BECKS FACTOR
It’s the BBC’s big Wembley Arena EU debate tonight. And after days of having Nigel Farage dominate the media in the wake of Jo Cox’s death, the Vote Leave camp will be heartily relieved to see the UKIP man off the screens - and replaced instead by their own star, Boris Johnson.
There may be an X-factor feel to the event this evening, with a huge audience of 6,000 people (split 50-50 Leave and Remain) watching, cheering and jeering on.
Will Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson emerge as the real star? It will be her first real national exposure (just like Nicola Sturgeon in the 2015 TV debates) - and boy does she not like Boris. Don’t forget that when Bojo blundered on Marr this year, she tweeted his "bumble-bluster, kitten smirk, tangent-bombast routine" wasn't cutting through.
The Telegraph reports that a pal of Davidson says “if Boris becomes leader, we’ll do a Murdo [a threat by Scots Tories to split from their English party]. We’ll have to break off.” In the Scottish Daily Mail, Davidson writes: “In the puffed-up protests of Mr Farage and Boris Johnson, in their complaints about Project Fear, and in the blithe assertions that ‘everything will be fine, don’t worry your little head, I recognise the brazen chauvinistic style of Mr Salmond”.
On Today, another Vote Leave star, Michael Gove, was as politely robust as ever, saying the reason no EU leader has backed Brexit is because ‘they follow the money’, and they are terrified at the prospect of losing the UK’s big bucks for Brussels. In his Sun interview, Cam slams Gove for his 'Trump-style politics'.
Will Boris tonight be asked again about his original flirtation with a ‘second referendum’, to get a better EU membership deal after a Brexit vote? Last night on Newsnight, Michael Howard said that he backed the idea of a ‘pause’ following a Brexit vote, a pause that would allow the EU to come up with a much better offer that could be put to another referendum. "If Europeans came forward with some other offer which looked credible I would be prepared to talk to them,” the former Tory leader said.
Nick Robinson asked a very direct question, would Gove have to quit on Friday after a Remain vote, given he thinks the UK in the EU can’t possibly meet its migration, economic or health pledges? “I will reflect and I will decide what is the best course for me” Gove replied. 'Vote Remain: Get Rid Of Michael Gove', you can see how that may work with some Labour voters.
Before the BBC debate, LBC Drive has more action later, at 4pm Michael Gove and then at 5pm Nigel Farage v Michael Heseltine for a 60 minute debate.
Oh, and David Beckham has come out for Remain. Gove countered that John Barnes was backing Leave. Yes, it’s reached that stage folks..
2) HILTON EX-TAPE
Ex-No10 strategy chief Steve Hilton has given the Mail a perfect splash, claiming that civil servants “explicitly and directly” told David Cameron four years ago it would not be possible to cut net migration beneath 100,000. Is this the dirty little secret the PM has been hiding for all this time...?
Recent net migration stats put it at 333,000 last year, and the Leave camp thinks this is it’s most powerful argument. But No.10 says it ‘doesn’t recognise’ Hilton’s claims. And rather curiously in 2012, the period he has suggested this all happened, net migration actually fell by a quarter from 242k to 183k and some in Government were hopeful it was on the right downward curve.
Still, the PM is obviously very worried about the topic. In today’s Sun interview he hints that he could indeed reopen the whole freedom of movement issue if we vote to Remain: “We have got to deliver all the things that we said, plus I hope more. We are re-opening the free movement directive. We want as much as we can achieve with that – the more you can do the better. We have got the UK presidency coming up, we should be leading this organisation not leaving it.”
Meanwhile, the Indy cites a new study showing that EU immigrants can actually help increase employment opportunities instead of taking people’s jobs. The report by The International Longevity Centre think-tank found that that on average, areas with higher employment rates for immigrants also tended to have more of the white UK-born population in work. The idea that immigrants crowd native Britons out of the jobs market “is built on the false premise that there are a fixed number of jobs in the economy.”
Meanwhile leave.eu chief Arron Banks proved on LBC yesterday why he’s even more of a risky bet than his pal Nigel Farage on the media. Banks said he was polling on the effects of Jo Cox’s murder on the referendum: “That is an interesting point of view, whether it would shift public opinion. I don’t see it as very controversial.”
In the Guardian, Len McCluskey offers the Leavers a bit of ammo, saying the EU is kinda to blame: “In the last 10 years, there has been a gigantic experiment at the expense of ordinary workers,” he says. And Alan Johnson told the paper’s podcast that the migration dynamic in the debate emerged “as soon as the [second quarter] immigration statistics came out, and we’re still struggling with the after-effects of that”.
3) MARKET FRY-DAY
“Leave and there’s no going back”, that’s the Remain camp’s new poster tagline, depicting a dark exit door. And in the Guardian currency speculator George Soros warns that there will be a ‘Black Friday’ for sterling much bigger than anything seen in 1992. And this time there’s no option to cut interest rates. Michael Gove pointed out Soros backed Britain joining the euro - and countered with a Brexit expert forecaster of his own - Jim Mellon.
The cost of leaving is pushed everywhere. In the Mirror, retail giants warn families will face higher prices if we leave. Former bosses of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons and B&Q warn that “prices will rise” if Britain leaves the EU.
Research by retail union USDAW finds that, if we were to leave, the hit to sterling and the imposition of tariffs would increase prices for families by £580 a year. Oh, and a Stronger In analysis shows higher inflation as a result of leaving would cause a hike in rail fares. Richard Branson has placed full-page ads in most papers warning of the dangers to business posed by Brexit.
As for experts, one of those who called the 2008 global recession correctly, Nouriel Roubini has tweeted overnight that ‘Brexit could stall the UK economy and tip it into a recession’.
Scared yet? Well, what was really striking about Newsnight last night was the pensioner in Bognor who was confronted with warnings that experts like Mark Carney were really worried about a Brexit recession. "They don't know any more than we do, do they? Really?” replied the old lady. There, in a nutshell, is the anti-expert worldview that could swing this for Leave - particularly among older voters. Who actually vote.
Then again, could young people finally get off their backsides and turn out for this poll? Sixteen young Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs, mostly in their 20s and 30s, have signed a joint letter warning against the “angry, intolerant, limited, sepia-coloured” vision of the UK presented by Nigel Farage.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
There were many moving tributes to Jo Cox yesterday. Here’s just one: Alison McGovern’s speech
4) POLLING IN THE DEEP
The polls have continued their last-week pattern of being incredibly close again. Using a new methodology, a new survey from the National Centre for Social Research think tank puts Remain on 53%, Leave 47%.
John Curtice, for it is he, says the outcome “looks so close that any lead should be treated with caution”. He also says the betting markets are underestimating the chances of Brexit (which currently stand at just 25%, Curtis says it should be 45%). Last night, an ORB poll for the Daily Telegraph gave Remain a 53/46 point lead, but a YouGov, but a YouGov Times poll gave Leave a 51/49 advantage. BMG Research says pollsters are finding it harder to find Remain voters than Leave voters: is that because they are shy or because there are fewer of them?
But the Sun reports on Steve Hilton’s own Crowdpac online surveys. It shows a narrow 50-49 lead for Leave, but 31% said they found arguments on both sides persuasive. Some 567,998 people underwent the online test, which suggests he's been polling in the deeper waters than most polls, and it shows Scotland and London are the country’s two areas that will overwhelmingly vote to stay in. The North, the East and the Midlands will definitely vote to get out. The South East, the South West and Wales are split almost down the middle - expect lots of campaign effort to go into these areas in the next 48 hours.
5) LOW-CORB DIET
“I am not going to take blame for people’s decision”. That was how Jeremy Corbyn put it on SkyNews last night (his only live TV event of the EU referendum campaign), when asked if he would have to take responsibility for Labour voters tipping the result for Brexit.
Yet low number of Corbyn events overall, his lack of passion for the In campaign and his dogged insistence that he is a ‘reluctant Remainer’ are all seen by many Labour MPs as proof of his personal culpability should we quit the EU.
One insider texted last night after Jez’s appearance: “Oh. My. God. That was awful”. Yet one JC backer texted “It was very different to every other politician making a case. Is the country a reluctant remained?”
Today, Corbyn is part of a frenetic last-ditch Labour push for Remain, speaking alongside Alan Johnson and Kate Green in Manchester. Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock and Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman (all the previous Labour leaders and interim leaders in recent years…spotted who’s missing yet?)
Jon Lansman, Momentum chief and close ally of John McDonnell, made a rare foray onto Radio 4’s PM programme. He said: “What Jeremy's got to do now is come up with a positive programme and not opposition to what the Tories do. It's actually John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, who is leading on that stuff.” Those who suspect McDonnell has his eyes on the prize were quick to seize on that one.
But on his blog, Lansman has now said his words were taken out of context and has pointed to the fuller version of the interview: "The shorter version on the PM program removed my comments about austerity. This edit makes it seem as if I said that John is taking the lead on developing our overall program, rather than turning our anti-austerity message into a positive economic program. Unfortunately, PM’s version removes the context. The result is that an unremarkable statement about a Shadow Chancellor leading on economic policy could be misconstrued by some as an implied criticism of Jeremy."
"For the record, I was not at any point criticising Jeremy’s leadership or suggesting that anybody else could do a better job."
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